Keeping Kids Safe Online
By Maria Rosado
County of Orange Social Services Agency
With school back in session, children and teens are using their devices more to complete homework assignments and stay connected with classmates. In addition, they are browsing social media sites to keep tabs on the latest trends, chatting with friends and playing interactive games. With all this time spent online, safety is a major concern for parents and caregivers.
Keeping children safe online starts with having frequent and open conversations. Talk about potential dangers children may face online and what to do if they encounter uncomfortable situations. Set clear rules about social media and device use and show them how to protect their passwords and confidential information by activating privacy settings for each platform. Teach them the importance of maintaining a positive digital reputation — don’t post anything that may compromise future goals such as college admission or a job offer.
It can be hard keeping up with the latest apps popping up on the social scene. Instead of trying to learn about all the new apps, familiarize yourself with the ones your children use most. Have your child show you how they work. This will help you understand why your child uses certain apps and it encourages quality time together. You will also learn which features are a cause for concern and how to minimize risks.
While devices offer endless hours of educational and entertainment content, unlimited screen time can be harmful to children’s physical and emotional development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents and caregivers limit children’s daily screen time. Studies conducted by the American Psychological Association have shown a relationship between screen time and psychological well-being among children and teens. The study says, “across different well-being measures — including measures of self-control, relationships with caregivers, emotional stability, diagnoses of
anxiety and depression, and mental health treatment — psychological well-being was progressively lower” as the number of screen time hours increased. The relationship between screen time and poor health outcomes such as obesity and lack of exercise has also been well documented,” the study says.
The best way to ensure children develop safe and healthy relationships with their screens is with open and honest communication and time spent together offline. Spending quality time with your children builds their self-worth, strengthens family bonds and helps them develop positive behaviors — all essential to healthy online behavior.
Saddleback College’s Foster and Kinship Care Education program offers free classes for Orange County resource parents. To get more information about navigating your child’s social media use, consider registering for the Swipe Right: Empowering Caregivers to Manage their Child’s Social Media Use class.