Over the last few weeks we have all received a crash course in remote learning, even though we weren’t fully prepared to keep our kids safe during this time. As school comes to an end, and the summer kicks into full gear, there may be a temptation to continue to allow the long hours of screen time that came with virtual school continue.
COVID-19 has definitely presented opportunities for our kids to learn new skills, to engage with larger communities in their fields of interest, and to stay connected with friends. But dangers lurk around every firewall and new online connection.
So how do we go about keeping our kids and even ourselves safe online?
Social Media: Benefits and Dangers
March of last year, I shared an article on 5 Ways Kids Can Avoid Social Media Dangers. Many of those recommendations hold true for remote learning opportunities. Whether on Zoom, Edsby, Clever, Google Classroom, or one of the over 200 social media platforms, we need to be aware of what our children are doing.
Here’s a quick review that can be applied to e-classrooms as well as social media:
- Talk to your kids and be honest about the dangers of sharing private information
- Have a set time when you unplug the wifi and start getting ready for bed
- Use privacy settings and teach your children how to block people that scare, bully, or threaten them
- Do a self-check and make sure you’re walking the talk
- Monitor them while they are plugged in, have the computer in a common room
Porn and Predators are a click away
Now for the shock factor. If your child wanders off the learning platform or decides to put in an inappropriate search term or clicks the wrong hyperlink, they can be met with something they don’t understand or can’t unsee. There has been an uptick in kids being exposed to pornography over the last few years and certainly during this pandemic. Protect Young Minds is an organization dedicated to protecting kids from being exposed to porn. They also have a program and resources available if your child has viewed pornography.
eLearning Platforms and What You Need to Know
While school was still in session for our children, their online activity was being monitored in large part by their teachers. It is important to remember as we go into the summer months that the teachers will no longer be monitoring the zoom chats with classroom friends or being there to direct them on which platforms to use and how to do so.
Monitoring online activity doesn’t have to be difficult. A few simple habits, some standard structure, and open communication with your child all go a long way.
It’s important to set time restrictions, especially towards the end of the day. Screens need to be off for a full hour before bedtime in order to get adequate sleep. Well-rested bodies stay healthy, and well-rested minds simply make better decisions. You and your child need to make sure that you are creating healthy habits. Excessive screen time can be harmful to your health and your sleep.
There are also actual security risks you need to be aware of. Cybersecurity is important as the more time your child spends online, the more vulnerable your systems become to account takeovers, ransomware, and data security issues. Make sure you have sufficient firewalls set on your computer to protect the software and your personal data.
Web content filters can also help protect your kids. Content filtering blocks help to filter out inappropriate content before your child sees it. When they are online at school, the computers they use have these filters because Federal regulations require the schools to have them. Your kids might actually be more vulnerable to seeing harmful content on the home computer then they are on the school network.
PC Mag recently posted their top ten picks of The Best Parental Control Software for 2020. No matter what software you go with remember that when it all seems overwhelming, turn off the screens and spend some quality time together. Do an art project, read a book together, go for a walk, or garden together. Today is an excellent opportunity to teach your children how to effectively manage stress.
Little eyes are watching. Make sure to model the characteristics you want them to manifest in their own lives.