A Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Web with Kids

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Elementary school kids grow up as digital natives.

They don’t know a world without the Internet. The folks raising them remember the day they learned to use a mouse. What difference defines the generational divide in clearer terms than that? It creates a challenge for raising digital natives:

Where should we start?

Digital immigrants were born in an era before the web. We invented the technology our kids navigate in ways we couldn’t have imagined. We pacified our toddlers with Leap Frog and graduated them to Webkinz. Who knew it would come to this?

Here’s how to navigate the web with your kids.

Know your enemy

The web isn’t all bad. It’s not all good, either. Two threats stand out when your child is online:

CHILD SAFETY | Social media sites allow for potential contact between your kids and strangers. Families often limit web access to a device in a high-traffic spot in your house. A parent over the shoulder is worth 10 in the next room hoping for the best.

Will your child surf alone? Consider Internet filter programs such as Covenant Eyes, K9 Web Protection, and Net Nanny.

DEVICE PROTECTION | Viruses pose a threat for users of all ages. Inexperienced users don’t know that flashing popups or promising-looking links can contain a virus. Here’s how to protect your web-enabled devices:

Antivirus programs: Have a new device or Internet service provider? You likely have an integrated program. Software such as AVG, Bitfender and Webroot provide an extra layer of protection.

Email safety: Unexpected attachments could contain viruses. Don’t open them if they come from an unknown source.

Stay updated: Integrated and added programs update with features and security patches. Log into antivirus programs and select automatic updates to prevent falling out of date.

Put up a firewall: Most devices and ISPs provide these, too. Firewalls prevent unauthorized access to your Internet network. They also block users from accessing certain sites and content.

Find the safe zones

Don’t rely on your kids to find safe sites on their own. I’ve created folders for each of my children with links to approved websites. They must check with me to navigate outside these sites. Several sites meld a kids’ desire to explore with sneaky educational hooks. Shh!

Kids’ sites you can count on limit identification of users and communication. They foster positive activity, rather than violence. Several even limit screen time per session. Check these out:

Sports Illustrated Kids | It mirrors the magazine form, but with interactive features.

TVO Kids | Loaded with games, videos and contests in two categories: age 2-5 and 6-11.

Sesame Street | The show we grew up with has transitioned k. to the Internet age.

Park the mobile devices

It’s easy to watch web navigation in the living room. Apps provide quick access to sites and features on mobile devices, though. They’re tougher to track. Link your kids’ devices to your account with the Apple Store or Google Play. All app downloads will appear on your account, too.

Know your children’s passwords and passcodes. Disallow them altogether if you can. Check out these kid-friendly apps, too:

For preschoolers

Peppa Pig – Happy Mrs. Chicken | Preschoolers will also love Polly Parrot and Peppa Pig Party Time. Get it on iTunes or Google Play.

For elementary school kids

DragonVale | Kids age 6-9 care for digital dragons. Get it on iTunes or Google Play.

For tweens

Questimate! | It’s math-estimation game play, for one or multiple players. Available on iTunes only.

A kid’s digital footprint emerges early. You wouldn’t hand a teen the keys for a solo road trip the day she gets her drivers’ license. Would you? The same applies for children and the Internet.

With enough guidance, your kids can get off on the right foot.


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About Author

Eli

Eli studied English and Religious Studies at UNC Charlotte. A former sportswriter, he writes a blog about coaching his daughters in soccer and once was mistaken for racecar driver Juan Pablo Montoya. He writes on the Internet and other technology. He’s a native of Greeley, Colo., an avid NPR listener and average disc golfer.

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