Nobody likes a lot of restrictions and rules, especially when they come in hand with the things they care about. Children are no exception.
When we talk about the security of our children online, familiarizing children with the subject is only the first step. The second part of the quest is making sure the acquired knowledge is implemented. Here we have two options: to implement safety measures that depend solely on parents (e.g. installing Kids mode on the mobile device) and to teach children how to do their part. This is where things become tricky.
The online world is like a treasure hunt for kids, full of new experiences and excitements. Parents can use this by putting an extra effort into educating kids about online safety in an innovative and fun way.
Dear parents, can you make the following instructions…
Don’t play that game, it comes from an unreliable source!
Don’t talk to strangers online!
Don’t leave your personal data on that website!
Seek my consent if you wanna get into that social network!
I like challenges so I thought about several ways to cope with this one:
1. Join the play!
Can you think of an easier way to have effective oversight over the games your child plays than to join the fun? From time to time, you should play games with your children, especially if you see they are hooked on something new. This way, you can overcome several potential issues:
– You will have an oversight over information the game/app collects from your kid.
– If the game includes player interactions, you will be able to see if there are privacy settings you can use to secure the communication during game.
– You will be able to evaluate the educational component of the game.
If you encounter any potential danger, you can educate your kid about the issues on the spot and in practice. One important side effect from following this advice: if you discover a new game which you assess as relevant, educative and fun, your kid will be more eager to follow the recommendation from a fellow gamer!
2. I swear that I will be a careful kid online, if you are not a boring and curios parent offline!
Small reminder: the essence of this story is to teach your kids how to behave online, but not because you told them so, but because they are aware of the possible dangers online.
One smart and potentially fun way to do this is by signing a family contract on online safety. As any other bilateral agreement, it has to be based upon the consent of two sides, parents and children. By signing the pledge, the kid obliges: not to give out personal information, to tell you if it feels uncomfortable with online communication, to be a good online friend etc. Examples which could inspire you can be found on Safe Kids; whether you have children under 10, or teens in the house. On the other hand, you as parent oblige to: set reasonable rules, get to know the websites your child uses etc.
3. Make some quizzes (read: ensure good prizes)
Note down all the important information that you want your kid to know about online security, and then rephrase it as Q&A sections. You can make different sets of questions related to different themes: online games, social networks, YouTube, Google, COPPA and parental consent etc. Make sure that the language is appropriate to your kids’ age and make sure to mix in some funny, internal family jokes that only you two would understand. If you prefer, you can do this online; it can be even more tempting for your future users. Last, but not the least, make sure that the winner/contestant gets an appealing prize. But not too appealing, we don’t want to spoil them too soon. 🙂
Don’t forget: it is important to enjoy the process. Your kid should learn throughout it, but you may learn something new as well. You will probably renew some of your creative skills that you maybe forgot about. You will have fun, and your kid will to! Which means you will spend quality time together. It’s a win-win all around.
If you have some more tips on how to make learning about online security fun, share it in the comments!