Be Careful Little "i"- Internet Safety Tips

Originally published Thursday, 10 October 2013.

“The same advances in computer and telecommunication technology that allow our children to reach out to new sources of knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them vulnerable to exploitation…” 

Louis Freeh, Former Director Federal Bureau of Investigation

I remember when the only color on my computer screen was green, having a phone in your car meant you were rich and pagers were for Doctors! My, how times have changed. As a parent my job is to stay up-to-date and even one step ahead of my eager, quick, and technologically savvy little girls.

I am responsible for what my children watch, what they read and now, most importantly, what gadget I put into their hands to occupy their time. It’s no longer as simple as reading a review on amazon or taking heed to a warning label that reads “Choking Hazard.”

Are you prepared?

Whether you hand your child a tablet for screen time entertainment, open a laptop to let them do research for a school project or pass them the iPhone for “facetime” with a grandparent, it is your job to do the research first.

I personally enjoy the benefits of all manner of “i-ness!” iPhones, iPads, iPods, i- Love it. However, I cannot assume that web developers and IT experts care about the well-being and safety of my children. That's my job.  And it's yours.

I am not a technology expert. In fact, it's quite the opposite! I'm learning as I go (code for my kids are teaching me). 

But here is what I do know.  With every unsupervised or unprepared minute a child spends on a screen, they are just one click away from explicit advertisements and graphics, unwanted friend requests and even pornography. If you think it can’t happen, I am so sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It can and it does. Ask the dad whose 12-year-old son clicked the wrong link on a search engine or the mom whose 8-year-old daughter was making a song on an app and found herself listening to vulgar and dangerously explicit lyrics instead. One click on the wrong page can change a child’s world.

I thought I had safety proofed the gadgets my children and I love, when I learned the following:

1. Some Apps, such as Maps and Twitter,  will allow access to the internet even if you have web browsers blocked or uninstalled.

2. Updates to operating systems as well as Apps can alter restrictions and privileges. Be careful when making updates!

3. Pandora plays commercials, and these commercials are not always personalized.  That means, if your child is listening to a Christian station there is still a possibility that the content of the commercial will be secular and inappropriate.

These are just a few of the simple things we can miss if we are not paying attention! So, here’s my advice: Get involved in your child’s technological life.

Always ask questions, browse apps, games and websites first and pay attention!