Internet access is just a given to them. Turn on the tap, you get water. Turn on the internet, you get cat videos, intense games, conversations with friends… just about anything! Face it, your kids are connected in ways no previous generation has been.
Limits on gatherings and physical contact because of COVID-19 are pushing young people online more and more. Can’t go to the movie theater? Have a watch party with friends. Can’t sit down on the couch and play video games in person? With a good connection, online play is fine. Chances are good many schools won’t open for in-person learning this fall, so your connected kids will take their lessons over the internet.
It all sounds so convenient, but you may be left with a worry or two. In the preonline age, parents could keep an eye on their kids. Their friends came over for playdates. You got to meet their teachers. If they went out, you knew where they were going (or at least, where they said they were going). But please, don’t worry. We’ve got some tips and ideas to help you care for your kids in their modern, connected environment.
1. REALIZE THAT YOUR KID IS PROBABLY WAY MORE TECHIE THAN YOU ARE
If you set out to control your child’s use of technology, you’re likely to fail. Most kids can out-tech their parents. Some of you may remember having your own parents come to you for help setting the time on the VCR. It’s a generational thing. If your kids are the ones who set up your Wi-Fi, you might find it tricky to kick them off your network.
As far as online safety goes, you’ll have more success working on communication than on control. Instead of imposing strict limits on, say, gaming, take a step back and think about why those limits are important. Talk with the kids about your concerns, and listen to their take. Don’t be surprised when they text you a link to an article that supports their position.
You may choose to install a parental-control system, but you’d be wise to pick one that emphasizes cooperation over control. Do you know what a secure anonymizing proxy is? Your child probably knows exactly how to subvert parental content filtering by using one. A system that lays out straightforward house rules, such as Norton Family Premier, is a good start. Along with Kaspersky Safe Kids and Net Nanny, Norton can also display a warning rather than a hard block when your kid is about to enter an inappropriate site or run out of screen time.
2. ALWAYS APPLY COMMON SENSE
Kids do crazy things. That’s their job! If they don’t go a little wild, they won’t learn what works and what doesn’t. There’s a literal change in brain development around age 25 that tones down the randomness. You’ve got the advantage of common sense, so you can help by gently reining in rash online behaviors and by installing software to head off the worst consequences.
You know you need antivirus on your computers, even though you try not to click suspicious links or visit sketchy sites. Your kids are surely more impulsive with their clicks, so they need that protection even more. Consider the following tools that let you manage protection for all your family’s devices: Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus, Sophos Home Logo Light, and Emsisoft AntiMalware. While these aren’t all Editors’ Choice top picks, they all let you manage your family’s protection from a single console. You don’t want antivirus that gets in the way—your kids may find a way to turn off the annoyance.
If you’ve already got an antivirus or security suite that works well for your family, take a moment to examine it. You may find that you already have at least some degree of remote control, or at least remote security monitoring.
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