If you are navigating the new world of virtual learning this fall because of COVID-19, here are some online safety tips for families to keep in mind as kids head back to school:
Keep your computer in a central location where you can keep your eye on kids and keep an open dialogue going. If kids are using iPads or other portable devices, set up a central “classroom” area. Be aware of what platforms and technologies your school is using for teaching and communicating (Zoom or other) and what the schedule is. Check with your child’s school to see what safety policies are in place for online learning.
Guide your children in researching topics online. There are endless resources available, but there are also dangers like pop-up ads, misinformation, inappropriate content and viruses. Remind them not to enter information on any site without checking with a parent first. Be available to help and answer questions. Check the browser history regularly to ensure children aren’t venturing into questionable territory.
Monitor your child’s online social interactions. Establish clear rules for social time and conduct, as well as safety protocols. Children should never give out passwords to friends or exchange personal information with online contacts.
Look into parental control settings for the specific devices used by your children. Platforms like Netflix and YouTube also have their own parental control settings that limit the content your child can access. Your internet provider may also have protection options available.
Set appropriate limits on screen time and balance computer time with other activities. As parents, you can encourage your kids to participate in family activities, household chores, outdoor play, craft projects and other enrichment activities.
Most importantly, keep the lines of communication open! Have frequent discussions about your child’s online learning experience and social interactions, and adjust boundaries and rules as necessary. Be available as a resource and sounding board for questions and concerns your child may have.