As the popularity and accessibility of online games increase, our children become more and more exposed to them; monitoring your child’s internet access and online presence has never been so important. Preventing cyberbullying, protecting your child’s personal information, safeguarding against predators, and limiting your child’s screen time to a healthy amount, are all great reasons for parents to want to keep an eye on their child online. The question is, how do we do so without becoming overbearing or unfair to the child?
Online monitoring is necessary, but it does not have to be one-sided. One of the best ways to monitor your child online is to engage with them and have them explain their online presence to you! With open and honest communication about the dangers and benefits of an internet presence, children should feel more comfortable explaining their own usage. They may even want to discuss their games and friends openly with you if you show interest in them without judgement! This type of open and nonjudgemental communication can only strengthen and empower your child. They will be more likely to confide in you if they find themselves in undesirable situations (online or in-person). Communicating effectively with your child is one of the most important ways of strengthening your relationship and its benefits extend much further than monitoring your child’s online presence. With open and honest communication, your child will have the tools to deal with most any situation they may encounter (even just by feeling comfortable enough to ask for help).
While communication and directly discussing the internet with your child is one of the most effective ways of monitoring them online, there are other, short-term methods!
Limit their screen time and/or access. This statement is a bit self-explanatory, however it is definitely important! Allowing your child internet access only after homework is finished or for only a few hours a day is an effective method in limiting their internet usage. Allowing them to only use their laptop in the kitchen or living room or making sure that certain websites are blocked are also ways to help monitor them online! More specific information and instructions can be found here: https://www.esrb.org/tools-for-parents/parental-controls/
Establish internet ‘ground rules’. Explaining to your child what you expect from them in regards to online safety is extremely important. If they do not know the dangers of posting their address online, what is stopping them from doing so? Calmly and clearly explaining to them why certain things are dangerous and your expectation that they should not do those things allows for a ‘base-line’ to be established. Some more information can be found here: https://internetsafety101.org/agebasedguidlines
Educate yourself. Often, our children are much more tech-savvy than us, so learning about the internet and what types of sites/games your child frequently visits (TikTok, Twitch, etc.) is one of the best ways to not only connect with them and learn more about their life, but also to protect them.
Online monitoring is only one facet of parenting and protecting your child. Open and honest communication is one of the most important methods in engaging with and protecting your child. Asking them about their day, respecting their opinions and privacy, and genuinely showing respect and interest towards them are all ways of connecting with your child and establishing an open line of communication. You may even find that you and your child love the same online games and have more to connect through than ever before!