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Letters

Train children in secure, smart Internet use

Children are today more familiar with the technologies
Children are today more familiar with the technologies than it was in the past. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Children are today more familiar with the technologies than it was in the past. Two-and-half-year olds use smartphones in accessing YouTube cartoons.

Parents today face at least one challenge that their fathers and mothers probably never had to deal with: the Internet.

Young people spend a lot of time online — whether researching for school assignments, playing games, or chatting — and all of this time spent on the digital world makes it more difficult for parents to know what children do at all times.

During my childhood my parents were on my trail, easily. Online, that’s not the case, and from Internet predators to cyber-bullying to pornography, there are threats on the Internet that modern parents need to watch out for.

The widespread adoption of digital technologies by children has added a modern wrinkle to a universal challenge of parenthood – specifically, striking a balance between allowing independent exploration and providing an appropriate level of parental oversight.

Digitally, children are recruited to sex tourism, prostitution, drug trafficking and other immoral behaviours. You may not want to spy on your children, but it’s your responsibility to make sure they aren’t exposed online, bullying other kids, or posting reputation-wrecking statuses. Hence, the need to monitor.

Parents today report taking a number of steps to influence their child’s digital behaviour, from checking up on what their child is posting on social media to limiting the amount of time their child spends in front of various screens.

Digital connectivity offers many potential benefits, but parents have also voiced concerns about the behaviours teens engage in online, the people with whom they interact and the personal information they make available.

If your children use multiple devices in your home to access the Internet, you can block inappropriate sites on all devices connected to the same Internet router, including PCs and game consoles. These hardware-based solutions can apply Internet content filtering and Internet time scheduling to every Internet-connected device in your home.

These types of solutions are more difficult to customise than software and subscription-based filtering tools.

On monitoring a child’s digital presence, parents tend to take a hands-on approach to monitoring what their children do. In addition, parents should know the password to their children email account, cell phone and social media accounts.

But even as parents use a number of these methods, they are relatively less likely to use technology-based tools to monitor, block or track them.

Locally there are products that are developed to help in digitally monitoring your children, see all the WhatsApp communication, get all texts, listen to their calls and digitally know your child physical location. There are many potential dangers associated with children using unmonitored devices.

Parents should take the additional step of befriending or following their teenage child on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms.

Parental controls and monitoring can make sure that your kids are staying smart on the Internet, but ultimately, education is going to be the most important thing.

Explain to your kids why bullying online is dangerous or damaging, and when to speak up if they are being bullied, talk about why talking to people they don’t know on the Internet is a dangerous proposition.

By teaching your kids about safe and smart Internet use, you should be able establish safe online habits that will last beyond the moment you stop monitoring your son or daughter’s online engagements.

Ndirangu Ngunjiri, Managing Partner watermark Consultants

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