Internet Safety for Kids: How to Protect Your Children in the Online World
As our kids are more and more online, it becomes easier and easier for them to encounter online predators, cyberbullying, pornographic and violent content, and other dangers. Internet safety for kids is essential. As parents, we need to educate and empower our children to be safe on their devices.
See Keeping Children Safe Online with Titania Jordan for a complete transcript of the Easy Prey podcast episode.
Titania Jordan has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fox Business, and USA Today, among others, has appeared as a subject matter expert on national broadcast shows such as the Today Show, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America, and was featured in the 2020 documentary Childhood 2.0. Her first book, Parenting in a Tech World, was published in 2020 and became an Amazon bestseller.
She describes herself as a “mom, woman in tech, and passionate about social media safety and mental health.” She is a mother of a teenager and a Chief Parenting Officer of tech company Bark, which helps protect over six million children across the globe. Bark uses an artificial intelligence that monitors children’s devices, accounts, social media, and text messages, and sends parents alerts about issues. These issues include online predators, mental health, acts of violence, and more.
Why Titania Works Towards Internet Safety for Kids
There are many reasons Titania wants to help parents protect their kids online. One of those is her faith. She strongly believes that there is a reason for everything. Bad things may happen to good people, but it’s possible to turn a negative into a positive. She believes God must have her in this place for a reason – she has no degree in computer science, and yet she has found herself working in tech.
Another reason is her personal background. Titania is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. She has struggled with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and eating disorders. Almost every issue that Bark alerts parents about is something she has personally experienced in some way. This has helped her have compassion and understanding in ways others might not.
Finally, she exists in a unique position in the timeline of technology. Being born in the 1980s, she grew up largely pre-technology and was able to naively enjoy it and not be afraid of it. She is well-positioned to help parents who aren’t comfortable with or inquisitive about technology, as well as connect with kids and teens who are going through terrible things but don’t know how to talk about it. Titania has been through some horrible experiences, and she wants to make sure other children don’t have to go through the same things – or if it happens, that their parents are able to help them navigate it.
Parenting in a Tech World
Parents used to have generations of knowledge on how to be a parent and protect their kids. When a situation came up that a parent didn’t know how to deal with, they could ask their parents or grandparents for advice on how they handled it. But with the internet, it’s the wild west.
Every generation of parents, besides this one, has had a lot of knowledge to base their parenting journey on.Titania Jordan
No parent has ever gone through parenting an internet-connected child before. There’s no manual for how devices and internet safety for kids should work. You can’t ask your grandma at what age she let her kids have smartphones. You can’t ask your mom how she responded when her preteen wanted Snapchat.
And it’s getting more dangerous to be a kid online. Kids used to have to leave the house to make bad choices, but now they can come to you. Titania’s high school party memories are just memories, but these days kids are making mistakes younger and those mistakes are documented on hard drives, on the cloud, on devices you thought you’d wiped, on apps that claim to have disappearing content that doesn’t disappear, or on other people’s phones as photos and screenshots.
Kids are being exposed to everything the world has to offer, good and bad, at a much more frequent rate and at a much younger age than kids have ever experienced in the history of being a kid.Titania Jordan
The documentary Childhood 2.0 is free on YouTube, and Titania thinks it’s worth a watch for anyone concerned about internet safety for kids. It’s a both chilling and heartfelt look at what it’s like to be a kid today and how different it is from any other time in history.
About Parental Control Apps
It’s one thing for Titania, as a representative of a parental control app, to talk about the dangers facing kids online and the important of internet safety for kids. It’s another thing to look at the data. Bark’s annual report is a great resource for just the data.
How often is this happening to kids? How often do children on the internet get exposed to cyberbullying, sexual content, online predation, eating disorder content, thoughts of suicide, depression, acts of violence, and drug- and alcohol-related content? If you’re like most people, you’d guess, 5-10%, maybe 15%. In reality, it’s closer to 75-90%. In their 2021 annual report, Bark analyzed 3.4 billion messages over text, email, and thirty social media apps. They found that 70% of tweens and 90% of teens encountered nudity or sexual content. The need for internet safety for kids is real.
A very, very large portion of children are experiencing problematic people and problematic content online.Titania Jordan
Bark hesitates to emphasize the “control” aspect of parental control apps. It’s not about controlling the child, it’s about building a relationship. There’s a fine line between being a parent and also being an understanding and safe space for a child. It’s also important to progressively let go of controls as your child grows so they can be responsible digital natives as adults. If anything, parental “control” is for the parent’s benefit. You can let your kids enjoy the benefits of connection, creativity, and education of tech while still emphasizing internet safety for kids and avoiding as many downsides as possible.
It’s Not About Being Restrictive
Parental control apps aren’t about judging your parenting style or promoting internet safety for kids through extreme restrictions. How you choose to handle online issues with your own children is up to you. If you’re the kind of person who won’t even allow internet in your house, your child will have a lovely childhood in certain ways. But likely they’ll either get a burner phone from friends or be in for a rude awakening when they move away.
It’s really about going on a journey with them. It’s the same principle as healthy eating, physical activity, or learning something. Tech is a part of our lives now. Just as you guide your child through the journey of making healthy eating choices, you can guide them through making safe and healthy choices with technology. Help them work through questions. What can they do to balance its benefits with what it does to their brain? How much time is a reasonable amount? How can they evaluate the quality of their tech time?
What Parents Should be Thinking About
As a parent, internet safety for kids requires a few considerations. One of these is modeling tech use for your child. If you’re telling them not to be on their screens all the time but you’re always glued to your phone, it’s not going to help.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it can happen anywhere. Danger isn’t just lurking on the apps that news broadcasts warn you about. Bad content can show up even in traditionally safe spaces. Internet safety for kids requires you to be their first line of defense with filtering and having conversations about online dangers.
Predators find kids in some of the most seemingly innocuous places.Titania Jordan
The best thing you can do to promote internet safety for kids is to have conversations. Talk to your kids about these issues in age-appropriate ways. When Titania’s son was four years old, she didn’t talk to him about online predators. he wouldn’t have understood. What she did tell him about was tricky people. If someone messaged him and seemed friendly, or asked him for his name, where he lived, or what school he went to, that’s bad and he needed to tell mom or dad. She emphasized that he wouldn’t be in trouble and wouldn’t get his devices taken away, but he needed to tell so mom and dad could keep him safe and defeat the tricky people.
It’s not a one-and-done situation. You have to have the conversations many times. Teach your kids about body parts and the technical names for them. Tell them that it might be tempting to take silly photos to make people laugh, but those can be shared. As your children get older, the number of potential issues grows exponentially. It’s essential to have frequent conversations about them.
Conversations About Security and Privacy
Talking about security, privacy, and internet safety for kids doesn’t have to be an arduous task. Titania likes to use existing situations. Some of her son’s schools have asked parent permission to take photos and share them on their website and social media. Instead of making the decision by herself, she talked to her son. She told him how she felt about it, and asked his opinion. That led into a conversation about his digital footprint and where it lives.
When filling out something online, it asked for her son’s Social Security number. It was another opportunity for education. How secure was the site? Was it SOC 2 compliant? Did it use two-factor authentication? When her son got his first smartphone, they had a conversation about how his friends don’t need his phone password.
Digital footprint, privacy, and security are all critical conversations to have. They’re also evolving conversations in society, so it’s important to have them with your child and keep having them as your child grows and technology evolves.
What Parents Should Check
If you don’t have a parental control app monitoring your child’s devices, you may want to check manually. And if you’re checking their devices manually, it can be hard to know what to check. Figuring out what you need to look at can depend on their age and education.
Is your child able to read? Check the comment sections of everything. Are they able to mistype something into Google that could lead them down a dangerous rabbit hole? Check their search history. Check what’s happening in text threads. Can they operate a camera? Check their camera roll. Are they using apps with disappearing message functions or apps that allow for real-time chat or video chat?
Checking some of these things requires a little bit of tech know-how on your part. Did you know there’s a whole folder of hidden folders in a camera roll? Has your child figured out how to hide photos there? There are vault apps that look like other apps but are really meant to hide screenshots, photos, and files. If your child has more than one calculator app on their phone, it’s time to have a conversation – one of those is a vault app for hiding things.
What Are Your Kids Talking About?
If you feel like you need a Kids’ Slang Dictionary to understand what your child is talking about, you’re not alone. New slang terms come out of nowhere. And they’re not always words – they can also be memes, gifs, or even emojis. Have you seen the pasta noodle emoji in your kid’s texts? Unless it’s Italian night, you may want to have a conversation with them, because that can be a shorthand for nude photos.
You have no idea what your kids are doing all day on their device unless you’re sitting right beside them and looking over their shoulder.Titania Jordan
Titania started a Facebook group, Parenting in a Tech World, because she was struggling personally with parenting through tech topics. Now the group has close to 250,000 parents talking about the issue. Bark also shares insights there, including the latest slang, memes, and emojis (Bark’s algorithm can understand it), hidden dangers of common apps, and dangerous viral trends.
Some Internet Safety for Kids is In Your Control
There are some aspects of internet safety for kids that are completely in the parents’ control. During back-to-school season and at the end of the school year, Titania sees lots of parents posting photos of their kids. These photos often include full names, grades, teacher’s names, and hobbies. She gets it – you’re proud of your kid. But it’s not wise to post that much personal information. Some people are great at limiting the audience, but the larger your online circle, the riskier it is.
Titania’s advice is to rethink why you’re posting this in the first place. Are you trying to show off, or trying to create genuine connection? It might be safer to text the photo to a few people who know, love, and care about your child and who your child knows instead of putting all that private information on social media where anyone could potentially get access.
Parental Control Apps are Tools
In the end, parental control apps are mainly a conduit to have conversations with your child. Technology is a tool, a lot like a car. Cars can get you places, but you also have to wear a seat belt and get auto insurance. Smartphones and social media have great capabilities, but also plenty of downsides.
Use the right tools to give you insights into your children’s world that is becoming more and more isolated inside a device that you don’t know how to navigate, and use that to help build a relationship with your child.Titania Jordan
Tech tools won’t provide instant internet safety for kids or solve every problem. But it can give you insight and help you figure out what conversations need having and when. If your child saw some pornography, you can have that conversation now instead of five years from now when they have a porn addiction. You can’t do anything if you don’t know what’s happening. Get familiar with what’s happening and where.
As a parent in the digital age, you’re at a major disadvantage if you’re not where your kids are spending time online or not using technology to help. Use available tools to help get into your child’s world and build a relationship with your child. As they get older, they’ll spend more time inside themselves and in their phones. It can be hard to find out what’s important to them or see signs of distress. Your relationship with them is everything.
- Easy Prey Podcast
- General Topics
- Home Computing
- IP Addresses
- Online Privacy
- Online Safety
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