Our kids are growing up in a digital age, which can be seen as both a blessing and a curse for parents. Although this access to technology can help to educate, engage and entertain our children in a positive way, it can be overwhelming to think about all of the dangers that exists in the online space.
Keeping Kids Safe Online
Cyber bullying, sexual predators, pornography and other explicit content are all a major concern for any parent whose child is surfing the web. In order to help keep our kids safe online, we have to be aware of the different websites, social networks and apps our kids are using. As informed parents, we will be able to teach our kids both the pros and cons of living and communicating in this online world.
This guide to social media offers a quick rundown of some of the popular platforms being used by kids today.
YouTube is a video-sharing platform that has been around for just over a decade. Whether you want to search out movies and tv shows, listen to music, or watch how-to tutorials, reviews or video clips on a wide variety of topics, YouTube is your go-to website. Many people don’t realize that creating a YouTube account is completely free and super simple to do! To register, all you have to do is:
- Go to YouTube.com
- Click “Sign Up” at the top right of the page
- Enter your email address and a password
- Fill out a few details (location, postal code, gender and date of birth).
Now, just because you have a YouTube account, it doesn’t mean you have to post videos. You can simply use your profile to subscribe to other channels, watch videos and interact with different accounts. And by the way, subscribing to YouTube channels doesn’t cost a dime. It’s free! Test it out by subscribing to our channel here —> youtube.com/catandnatYT. Just click the red “Subscribe” button, and you’re all set.
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t have to be subscribed to YouTube to access all of the content available. So, even if your kids don’t have an account, they can still watch all of the videos. Therefore, it’s good for parents to get familiar with YouTube so they know what exists in this online space.
You’d be amazed by how many kids are on YouTube these days – not only searching out and watching videos, but also creating content for their own channels. Some of these kids have become wildly successful YouTubers with millions of views and hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
Children are becoming well-versed in the technology from an early age, so it’s important that we set limits on usage and what they can access. If you’re worried about your kids stumbling across a video they shouldn’t see, set up the Parental Controls for YouTube by following these steps:
- Go to YouTube.com
- Scroll to the bottom of the page
- Click on “Restricted Mode: Off”
- Choose “On” and hit “Save” to switch on the Safe Search
- To lock these changes, click “Lock Restricted Mode on this browser”
You can also make YouTube kid-friendly on any Android of iOS device with the YouTube Kids app. The app’s interface is easy to navigate and the content available is appropriate for younger children.
- Go to the App Store on your mobile device
- Search for the “YouTube Kids” app and download it to your phone
- Once installed, launch the app
- Set up the parental lock
- Select the age group your child is in
- Keep in-app searching on for the first few sessions
- Navigate the home screen using the icon across the top (video content, music, educational videos, and explore)
- Click the “search” icon in the top right corner and search for content that interests your child to help produce video suggestions
- Click on the “padlock” icon to access the settings menu and customize your settings
Another YouTube feature, which is available to those in the United States, is YouTube Red. It’s a paid-for subscription service that eliminates ads on videos. So, if you hate pop-ups and commercials interrupting your watch time, or you don’t want to your child to be exposed to ads, you can pay for an ad-free experience.
musical.ly is a mobile app used to create and share music videos. It’s simple and fun for kids (and adults) to choose a song and record a video of them lip synching to the music. Users upload their own videos, remix existing work, and browse videos posted by others. However, seeing as the app uses popular songs to create videos, parents have to be aware of the profanity and sexual references in the music, as well as the suggestive dancing in videos. It’s also important to realize that your child can be exposed to explicit sexual content. Although there is no way to protect your child from what they see while using musical.ly, you can help ensure their safety and privacy by setting up the app so that they are only sharing videos with friends rather than the public.
Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to easily exchange messages, photos, and video clips with friends. People also use Snapchat to watch Live Stories and explore news from around the world.
The app offers a quick and easy way to share stories and experiences with others. Snapchat stories can be viewed by anyone you’re connected to on the app, and they disappear after 24 hours. Videos and photos (up to 10 seconds in length), as well as typed messages, can also be sent to specific contacts. After being opened by the person on the receiving end, the content “disappears.” Due to the disappearing nature of the posts, it is not uncommon for people to exchange “sexts” or provocative photos and videos using the app. However, Snapchat gives users the ability to screenshot or save posts made by others, which can have very serious repercussions. If your child is using the app, it’s important to teach them to be careful of what they’re sharing with others. Although they may think that the message they’re sending will only last a matter of seconds, the negative effects could last a lifetime.
Parents and grandparents have taken over Facebook, and although it seems like kids aren’t as active on this social network, they’re just using a different version of it. Instead of posting publicly to Facebook, kids are connecting privately via Facebook Messenger, which is just like texting. The app allows you to send photos and videos to a single person or to a group of people in a conversation, and you can make phone and video calls to people anywhere in the world. You can also notify users of your location for meet-ups and transfer money through the app. All of these features make connecting and sharing really easy, but that’s not always a good thing! Make sure your kids know the consequences of communicating online. The fact that you don’t have to be friends on Facebook to connect with someone via Messenger is also something parents should be aware of. If your child’s phone number is listed as “Public” in their Facebook profile privacy settings, anyone can use their number to message them through the Messenger app.
Facebook Parents Portal, which launched this past December, offers great resources for parents who are interested in talking to their kids about staying safe online.
Net Nanny is an award-winning internet monitoring software that allows parents to control their child’s access to the internet and filter out inappropriate content online. The software is available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Social, and it is the number one software for protecting children from the dangers that exist online, while allowing them the freedom and independence to search the web for content they’re interested in. Net Nanny is a great tool, which can help ease parents’ minds when it comes to screen time for kids.
Features of Net Nanny:
- Blocks pornography and other harmful websites
- Masks profanity
- Sets time limits on internet usage
- Sends alerts and reports of online activity directly to parents
- Creates user profiles to tailor protection for each family member
We can’t change the fact that our kids are living their lives online. But rather than living in fear, we must educate ourselves on the various sites, apps and programs our children have access to, and teach our kids how to use technology responsibly. Open up the dialogue and encourage your children to come and talk to you if they are ever uncomfortable with a situation online. They are more likely to be honest with you about what they’ve seen, heard or done if they know they can confide in you without being judged or shamed. Although we would never want our children to be in a terrible situation, we would much rather help them through it than have them struggle on their own.
Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer are entrepreneurs, YouTubers, Facebook Live hosts, media personalities, and brand spokespeople. Together, they parent seven children, manage two husbands and run Social Common, a one of a kind digital platform for moms. Through their candid videos, Cat & Nat share the real, raw, uncensored side of motherhood with moms all around the world.