I’ve always been one of those parents that believed that I would not buy my kids smart phones until the age of 18. Well, that was wishful thinking to say the least. Not only does my 11 year old son have a smart phone, he’s already on his second IPad.

As with the real world, the Internet has its seamy side and it’s all too easy for kids to stray into it. Click-click and a Peter Cottontail fan’s search for “bunnies” brings up raunchy pictures of women wearing fuzzy white ears and not much else. Porn, questionable characters, hate groups, and misinformation flourish online.

Here’s what you can do to ensure safe internet usage for your child:

Regular audits

You have every right “audit” your child’s phone now and again. I’ll admit, I haven’t been consistant with my audits this year, but I will definitely be going through Owami’s devices tonight. I normally check emails, messages, new downloaded apps, search history, I check everythaaaang !!!!! I always say to him that I don’t go through his phone because I don’t trust him, but I do it to protect him. After all, they are still children and it is our responsibility to protect them from the evils of this world.

Limit screen time

I must say, I really struggle with this at home. It’s so easy to allow your child to spend hours playing Minecraft on their IPad, because you don’t want to hear them whining about being bored. Owami is allowed to spend a minimum of one hour per day on his Ipad during the week and two hours on the weekend. The secret here is to try and find activities that will keep your child busy. Children need to play outside and be kids. We are very fortunate because Owami participates in a lot of sports at school, so doesn’t he spend much time at home during the week.

Don’t let your child go to bed with their device

My son goes to bed at 8 and before he goes to bed he hands over all his gadgets. We’ve been doing that for a while now and it seems to work. Before I implemented this rule, Owami would continue to play games in bed instead of sleeping and I would have to deal with a sleepy child the following morning. It’s important for these little ones to get a good night’s sleep, especially on a school night. Secondly, like my mom used to say, all bad things happen at night. Pedophiles flourish at odd hours.

Social media

As much as I know that I would immediately get the coolest mom prize if I were to allow Owami to get an Instagram account, I just can’t allow for that to happen. It’s simple, I just don’t think he’s emotionally ready. I think he’s too young to be worrying about the number of followers he has, or the number of likes he gets for a post. He once downloaded the Instagram app without my consent and I immediately confiscated his phone. It’s important for us to remind them that having a phone is a privilege which can be taken away if it’s abused.

Communication

The secret to a happy relationship is communication, whether it’s with our partners or children. It is important to create an environment where children talk to you, especially if there’s something wrong. Have regular conversations about topics such as social media, bullying and the internet.

 

Enforcing boundaries and engaging in open discussions with your children will encourage them to learn the benefits and realise the dangers of the internet.