This is a pretty typical scene at our house. My babies aren't even out of diapers yet, but they're already exploring the world of tablets and cell phones. I truly don't think it's a bad thing, introducing children to electronics at a young age. They'll grow up being more proficient with computers, and for the most part I've found it to be an enriching experience as long as I'm overseeing them. They watch Elmo, they tweet gibberish from my account, they browse my old college photos.
Okay, maybe we could do without that last part.
Safeguarding Children Online
I do worry about how to best safeguard the children online as they grow older. With WiFi access available pretty much everywhere nowadays, predators are around every portal. And with my oldest being Mr. Observant, I wouldn't be surprised if he could rattle off every intimate detail of our lives within a year or two (revealing information like our home address, our full names, his birthday, etc). I'll do my best to coach him about “stranger danger” and to keep personal information personal, but I'm already taking steps to protect our identities before it ever becomes an issue. Here are some of the ways I recommend all parents go about safeguarding children online:
- Use a service to block unsavory sites. When they're young, it's a good idea to limit their usage to just a few kid-friendly pages that you know well.
- Use a free VPN service like Hotspot Shield to secure your data over WiFi connections. This can be a good solution on personal computers and laptops as well as mobile devices.
- Don't let kids surf the web unsupervised. Keeping all online electronics in a public space – not in their bedroom behind closed doors – is a good rule of thumb.
- Teach them your favorite ways to use the web. Show them that online activity isn't about talking to strangers and playing games all day. It serves an important function in learning and exploring new interests.
- Use the “Read it Aloud” rule. If they wouldn't read something aloud to you, they shouldn't be sharing it or reading it on the internet.
- Establish limits. Just as many children grow up with television screen time limits, they should also have a small allotted amount of time on the internet.
This is his, “Get off my internets, mom!” face. This kid doesn't like having his toys taken away, but it's important to set boundaries.
I'm thrilled to announce that I've joined Hotspot Shield as one of their blogger ambassadors. I'll be sharing tips every few weeks to help you have a better, safer and more enjoyable experience online using their FREE VPN service to protect your privacy. Got any burning questions about the interwebs? Send them to us and we'll help get them answered! Go connect with our newest sponsors on Twitter, Facebook and their very own Hotspot Shield blog.