Tips For Safeguarding Your Children And Their Use of the Internet

Let’s talk about technology and your children. It is not hard to miss the importance of this topic.  For many young parents, it can be a scary proposition; especially if the kids know more than the parents.  I’ve been dealing with computers, for years.  I’m also familiar with what is happening on the Internet.  These days, you need a lot more than the latest software tools.

I would like to share ideas and tips for helping your children.  Believe it or not, there are timeless principles that can easily help. However, it requires that you spend time with your children. It’s easy to say, “It’s common sense!  They’ll learn.”  Not so fast!  Young children do not automatically know what to do.  You have to teach them.  As they grow, your children will learn the value of what you’re saying.

Am I overreacting to the idea of kids knowing too much about technology and computers?  At one time, I would have sworn people were exaggerating the computer prowess of young children. Truth is, children are a natural sponge when it comes to computers, tablets, and smartphone. For them, it’s a toy to explore and have fun with.

The other day, I got a whiff of what others have been talking about.  Some time ago, an 8-year-old boy spoke of a video game that he enjoyed. It is called Minecraft.  I have played the game on my home computer and it is a fun sandbox building game. Minecraft plays to a child’s natural desire to build or create amazing structures.  There is a whole community that can tell you, a whole lot more.

These days games are rarely played in a vacuum.  Children can go online and play with their friends. I rarely went to any of these online servers.  So, I decided to strike up a conversation with my niece’s son.  When he told me about his gaming name, my jaw hit the floor.

I have heard stories of small children being quick to learn about technology.  This is the first time where I get to experience it.  The kid mentioned that he had a gaming server and he doesn’t allow people on it. I suspect his dad and mom had a hand in that decision.  I am proud of my niece and nephew stepping up to the plate on that.

Are the parents, super tech savvy? No, they don’t have jobs in the IT field. It is important that you understand that a technology background isn’t always needed.  If you love your children, then you will spend time with them.

Talk with your kids about what they are playing and listen; even if you don’t understand.  Because I demonstrated an interest in Minecraft, it became easy to talk about the dangers of hosting your own server.

What if I did not know about ip blocking tools?  The kid already demonstrated a good working knowledge about running a server; so I’d encourage him to learn and talk with me.  At the same time, I’d check with knowledgeable friends.  Why is this important?

You don’t have to scare your children; however, you do need to have age appropriate discussion with your kids. Keep in mind, your kids may have technical knowledge; however, it is not the same thing as wisdom or common sense. If you tell them beforehand, they’ll be better prepared to deal with what comes up.  In the end, they will greatly appreciate what you told them.

I’d also encourage you to do what my nephew did. He checked out the Minecraft gaming serve before he let his son play on it. It was a nice place and the kid would not get into serious dangers. Yet, it has the potential to be a good learning experience.  Are you catching my hint? Get involved with your kids.

Obviously, Minecraft is not the only game your kids could be playing online.  Sooner or later, your kids are going to gravitate to games like Player Unknown Battleground, CS Go, Overwatch, ARK and many others. These games tend to appeal to teens and older.  From what I’ve seen, you may not want little kids playing these game.  What about the teens?

You need to teach your teenage son or daughter about the real dangers on the Internet. It is better to be forewarned about the dangers and what to do than to live in regrets.  Here is a possible strategy. Challenge your son or daughter to do some research on these servers?  Encourage the kid to learn what they can do to play safe and smart?

Why is this important? If they take an interest in it, then they are more likely to take your concerns, more seriously. Talk with them about any issues of morality and ethics.  For instance, you may be concerned about the foul language used in a game’s chat stream. Talk with your kids about it. Encourage them to see what they can do about it.  Remind them, they don’t have to go along with the foul mouths seen in the chat stream.

Image result for careful of what you share on the Internet

Think before sharing!

Here is another tip that comes from a gentleman named Paul Soares Jr.  Instruct your children about sharing information on the Internet.  For one, you should not give out personal information like your phone # or street address. They don’t need this information on social media or a gaming server.

Your privacy is important and it is very easy for people to learn your private information. Unwary children are a natural source of information.  Don’t make it easy for scammers and others.  Instruct your children about what to say or share.  If you talk with them, it will be easier to avoid future problems.

It is time to share another important tip and it involves screen time. Though I can easily spend hours on the Internet; I don’t.  Like anyone, I need to step away from the computer and engage the world around me.  Hey, I do have a real life to live. Laundry needs to get done. Dinner needs to be cooked and a home to care for. Plus, I volunteer at a couple of places and visit my mother.

What about your children?  They are not miniature adults, who automatically know time management. Time management is a learned skill and it takes time.  My parents had to tell me to turn off the television and focus on my homework.  You can watch television after you’re done. They were right and I did need to prioritize my time.

‘It’s too nice a day to sit around inside — why don’t you go out and conquer something?’

There is another issue relating to computer screen time.  It’s your child’s  emotional development.  I am not going to point to some study on the issue. Rather, I’m going to offer something practical and it will help when they are online.  I know from personal experiences that it’s important for your kids to engage in social activity in the real world; not just cyberspace.

Though I did not consider wrestling and cross country to be social activity; they do provide an opportunity to socialize. Unfortunately, I did not get to do too much real socializing as a kid. By socializing, I am talking about making friends and cultivating them, going out to a local pizza parlor or bowling alley and so forth.

Why is it so important to socialize in the real world? It is a lot easier to see and recognize the impact of our words and actions.  Online, it is very easy to hide our real feelings.  You don’t always get to see the hurt or impact your words are having; unless they tell you. By socializing in the real world, children can easily learn all the subtle cues that come in communication and having fun.

What if you are like me and you’re not into sports?  I do agree with the effort to get kids outside and enjoy some fresh air.  Guess what? It doesn’t always involve competitive sport.  If you live in a nice area, then I’d encourage a good walk.  It happens to be my favorite activity.  There’s also miniature golf and other fun activities to do with friends.

Has this happened to you?

Here is a final tip. Let’s admit it! We are all bad when it comes to our cell phone. Let’s not say it’s only teens, who are bad.  I’ve seen plenty of grown adults with a cell phone planted on their ear. I can be bad, too.  So, let’s not point fingers at each other.

I hope you’re looking at the photo because it should drive the point, home. I’ve actually had dinner with a friend and his cell phone rang. He answered proceeded to talk for a while.  It seems that I’ve been forgotten.

Your children will learn table etiquette best by watching you.  It is not enough to say, “No cell phone at the dinner table.”  You have to turn off your own cell phone, too.  If you really are that important then put the phone on “Mute” and “No Vibrate”.

By doing this, you’re not just setting an example for your children. You are also saying that they are important to you. You are saying that you value your time with them. If it’s that important; they can leave a voice mail or send a text message. It’s that simple.

The same principle applies to your kids. They need to learn the importance of disciplining their own time.  As our smartphone has access to the Internet; this discipline becomes more important. Encourage your kids to tell their friends to not call at dinner time and resist the urge to text back.  The text message isn’t going away.

Did you think I let you get away without mentioning the value of prayer?  Let’s face it. You can’t be with your children, around the clock. They have to grow and learn, from experiences. However, there is One, who can be with your son and daughter.

I’d encourage you to pray for your children.  Ask God for guidance on how to pray.  From what I’ve read, the Father has an amazing track record for letting you know.  At the same time, I would encourage you to teach your own children the value of prayer and seeking God’s guidance.

Remember, Proverbs 22;6 says for parents to teach your kids the way to go. When they’re older, they will not depart from it”.  As I got older, I developed a greater appreciation for what they taught me. The same thing can be true of your own children; however, it needs to be done in love.

Barry Brindisi

Author of "You Are Not A Lesser Human".

Comments are closed