Children are spending more time on the internet. It is estimated that children and young people aged 8 to 18 years spend approximately 44.5 hours every week on screens. Even before the pandemic, studies indicated that young people were practically always online. While it is important for everyone to stay safe online, it is especially critical that children are protected while they surf the internet.
Excessive and unmonitored internet use by young people can pose a number of security risks. Key among them is the risk of radicalization into extremism. Extremists have harnessed the power of social media to target vulnerable young people. They exploit the fact that these young adults have unfettered internet access, which renders them vulnerable to extremist ideologies and propaganda. Other online security risks that children face include, cyberbullying, invasion of privacy, sexual predators, and inappropriate content, among others.
The role that community policing can play in preventing and countering violent extremism cannot be overlooked because terror attacks are not planned in isolation but by people who live in communities.
Too much screen time for children has an impact on their behavior. They tend to struggle with emotional, attention, and social issues. Children and young people who view violent content are likely to lash out and exhibit aggressive behavior. In addition to behavioral concerns, excessive screen usage has also been linked to obesity, irregular sleep, and poor academic performance.
How to Keep Children Safe Online
Families, particularly parents, go to great lengths to safeguard their children, from being cautious while crossing the street to ensuring that they are always wearing a helmet when cycling. But, what can they do to keep their children safe online? Below are some tips that could be of help.
1. Have an open conversation on internet safety
Parents need to talk with their children as soon as they start using the internet about what they are supposed to watch, read, and who they can communicate with online. Learn what your children’s favorite websites are and go through them together. Subsequently, the child can be taught what is appropriate for their age.
It is also important to explain to children about their online reputation, how they should engage with others, how to behave, and how they can represent themselves in public platforms.
2. Parental controls
Parental controls are software applications and programs that allow parents to regulate their children's access to the internet. They are an excellent approach to keep kids from viewing inappropriate content online. The settings allow parents to filter and block content that they don't want their children to view, limit what information is shared, establish time restrictions for how long children may be online, and regulate when the children can use the internet during the day. Parents may also establish various profiles for different family members so that each one has the appropriate level of access.
3. Monitor the time spent online
It's crucial to keep an eye on the amount of time children spend online, especially if they are young, so they don't establish unhealthy habits. Encourage the children to participate in other outdoor activities that contribute to mental, emotional and physical health. If they must spend time online, agree with the child the time of the day they can access the internet and the period of time they can spend on it.
4. Keep devices where they can be seen
Devices can be placed in a central position in the house, where they can be seen so that parents or guardians can easily monitor the activities and content being watched online. Parents can agree with their children that playing video games, watching television, or using electronic gadgets should only be done in places where they can be supervised.
5. Know your children’s friends online
As children spend more time online, they are presented with the risk of being targeted by extremists, cyberbullies and sexual predators. They may fall prey to these people if they are not educated to be cyber-savvy from an early age. In order to avoid such dangers, parents should befriend and know their children's social media circles and monitor what they post.
Guides and Resources for Parents and Caregivers
A guide to child online protection
For questions about staying safe online
Tips, advice, guides and resources to help parents keep children safe online
Setting up parental controls and how to use them
Childnet International comprises of a parents and carers hub where they can find information to help children have a safe online experience