Every year Safer Internet Day is observed on the second day of the second week of February, the day called upon all stakeholders to join hands together to make the internet a safer and better place for all.
2021 marks the 18th edition, with each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and current concerns primarily faced by children and young people.
But the 18th edition ‘Safer Internet Day’ is more important and especially than its predecessor, with a global pandemic locking us all in children, adults, and the older generation alike flocked to their screen and found a safe haven in the increased internet usage.
But with children unsupervised and their exposure to the World Wide Web unchecked, Parenting and safeguarding one’s kids was a challenge.
Add to that as a major part of our routine lives moved online, and with online learning becoming the new way of schooling, it became necessary to teach children a few extra precautions as well.
Parents have always been concerned for the digital safety of their families. Recent research undertaken by Google’s Trust Research team in Asia-Pacific (Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam) and Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico) found that parents with children attending school online were more concerned about online safety than ones whose children attended school in-person.
How can parents protect their children on the Internet:
Protect their digital identities
- Teach your children how to choose strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed. Avoid simple passwords that use names, birthdates, or even favourite cartoon characters.
It is also useful to stick to platforms that have a strong reputation for user safety.
Know who they talk to
- Social isolation is a difficult outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our children connect with their friends online, whether through messaging apps or voice chat while playing games. Parents need to be aware that these channels can also be used by ill-intentioned strangers to reach out to their children.
Try to talk to your kids about the games they play or the videos they watch, and also the people they play with online. In India, 74% of parents with children attending school online during the Covid-19 pandemic expressed increased concern about online safety. But interestingly, 34% or more than a third of parents interviewed have never spoken to their children about online safety.
When assessing if a game is suitable for your child, it is important to check not only the content of the game but also whether the app allows online communications with others. Some multiplayer games allow only a few options for social interaction, like a thumbs up rather than a text chat. This reduces the risks of unwanted social interactions by quite a lot.
Offer appropriate content at the appropriate age
The fear of children encountering inappropriate content has long been among the top concerns of parents in surveys. There are family safety features that parents can use to help guard their children against content that may not be suitable for their age. In India, 71% of parents are currently using online family safety features.
Here are some features that you can start using today:
Turning on Safe Search on Google helps filter out explicit content in Google’s search results for all searches, including images, videos and websites. SafeSearch is designed to help block explicit results like pornography from Google search results.
Manage your child’s device by creating a Google account for your child and using Family Link. This allows you to add filters on Google Search, block websites or only give access to the ones you allow or track the location of your child if they have their personal device.
Many parental controls are available on YouTube Kids. Parents can limit screen time, only show videos that you approve, or select suitable content based on the age of your child.
Some other time-tested tips include allowing children to use the internet only in common areas in the home such as the living room.
At the end of the day, the core of a parent’s journey lies in the relationships they build with their children. They require our guidance on the internet as much as they do in the real world.