Many things scare me as a parent when it comes to my children and their online safety is pretty high up on the list. Of course, if keeping them safe online was similar to burglar proofing I would rest easier but there are just way too many access points to guard. The truth of the matter is that despite my best efforts, I know there will always be some threat I cannot foresee and/or protect them from. Still, certain measures have made it a whole lot easier for me.
Monitoring their social media
I can almost hear some parents already judging me but before you take out the pitchforks just hear me out. Considering the heartbreaking and depressing numbers on suicide rates and attempts as relates to cyber bullying and the harrowing tales of children who have been victims, I cannot just stand by and wait for the same to happen to my kids. Similarly, there’s increased exposure to pedophiles, opportunistic individuals, stalkers and so much more evil around them. I see it as my duty to be around them as much as possible and shield them where possible. Does this make me seem a little paranoid? Perhaps. But, I always say it is much better to be safe than sorry.
Discuss potential threats and risks with them
Much as I advocate for close monitoring, I am also a realist and I am well aware that I cannot do everything. In the end, the buck rests with the kids. For instance, I cannot read their Facebook messages, and I cannot tell what manner of people they speak to. That is why I spend time discussing potential online threats with my kids. I tell them how to identify such threats and the measures they should take, including informing me, when they feel that they are in a dire situation.
Providing some level of anonymity
Close monitoring and discussions are meaningless if you cannot safeguard their identities. With the IP address pretty much acting as a beacon to transmit my kids’ location and packets of information being so easily accessible once it’s transmitted from their devices, I cannot emphasize enough the need for anonymity. Turning off the location feature in their devices might work with some apps, but it still doesn’t guarantee anonymity. To provide better anonymity for my children, I use a VPN in my network, which hides my IP and other identifying information and generates a different IP to act as my own.
Using software to safeguard their devices
While my network is safely shielded by the VPN, I recognize that there is a considerable risk when they connect to other networks. That’s why my last line of defense is a range of security software, including antivirus software and firewalls to protect their devices. This way attempts to steal their information, hack into their devices and other actions can all be easily prevented.
Is this enough?
I’d say that there is a lot more that could be done to protect our kids online but for most parents, including myself, this is enough. I take everything in stride and keep updating my information so that if anything comes up that could be potentially risky or helpful I react accordingly.