Babies’ milestone moments used to be learning to walk or talk. Now it’s leaning towards how fast they can get to grips with a smart device. Reports now show kids as young as six-months are getting their first formative touch of tablets and smartphones.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lamenting the arrival of the digital age. The internet, along with all the amazing apps out there, are incredible tools for learning, socialising and creating – for all ages.
But it’s a harsh reality that they also open the door to a realm of content that some of us parents may, understandably, feel that we don’t want our kids exposed to. In fact, for many parents, inappropriate material is the main worry when it comes to giving kids access to their own smartphone. So just how can you reduce the risk of your youngster stumbling upon content they shouldn’t?
Have the content conversation
Chat with your child about how to avoid accidentally bringing up adult content. You know, the email links offering a free trip to Bali. The social media posts that just need one quick click through to share Ryan Gosling’s ACTUAL phone number with you… Remember that things we might (rightly) be cynical about might not seem quite so suspect to an innocent eye.
Like most parents, I trust my kids to behave responsibly online, but still want the peace of mind that they’re not drawn into doing anything untoward. Which is where parental controls come in. You’ll probably be surprised by how many safeguards you can put in place across web browsers, search engines, social media platforms and so on nowadays. You can stop apps from being downloaded, filter certain search terms and, in some instances, even restrict things like photos from being shared. All of which helps make the digital world a safer space for your kid to play in.
Stream on safely
Pre-internet era, 10-year-olds wanting to watch a MA15-rated movie would have to resign themselves to begging their parents to rent it from the store on their behalf or going to great lengths to sneak into the screen at the movie theatre. But with on-demand streaming now opening up a whole world of entertainment for our kids, this kind of material is just a click away. Know though that parental controls are also available on subscription streaming sites, like Netflix and Stan. You can set the appropriate maturity level for individual profiles, along with a four-digit PIN that your child will need to enter if they’re trying to watch a movie or show with a higher age rating.
But not in an overbearing, standing-over-their-shoulder kind of way. Encourage kids to use their devices in communal areas of the home, so that if they do come across something they weren’t looking for, they can let an adult know straight away. It’s also important to make it clear that they won’t be ‘grounded’ from using the internet if they do tell you about accidentally coming across inappropriate content.
Get the support you need
If your child has seen something online that has upset or confused them, don’t hold back on getting in touch with some free, confidential counselling services. headspace.org.au (for 12-25-year-olds), and reachout.com (for 14-25-year-olds) are great go-tos.
Report rogue content
Would you want any other child seeing the material? If the answer’s no, report it ASAP to the site administrator. If that doesn’t do the trick and you find that the content is still live, report it via the ‘Complaints and reporting’ section at esafety.gov.au.
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