Grandparents play a unique role in child-rearing. They get to spend time with their loved ones and then send them home with their parents, or, in some cases, grandparents may have custody of their grandchildren or they may simply live with their adult children and care for their grandchildren while their parents are at work. Regardless of the exact situation, grandparents need to know how to keep their grandchildren safe while they’re online.
Today’s world is far different than the world of the typical grandparent. Children have access to the Internet and can reach thousands of people with just a few clicks of a button. Online games, social media accounts, and other venues can quickly put children in danger of predators. Grandparents need to understand how easy it is for a predator to sneak in and sabotage relationships with their grandchildren.
A predator will quickly begin the groundwork to separate these young children from their protectors, in this case, their grandparents. A wise grandparent will help their grandchildren set up some safe boundaries to use while they are online.
Here are some great example of safe boundaries that grandparents can help their grandchildren with:
1. Set Up Accounts Together
Before your grandchildren ever begin to spend time online proper filters and parental controls should be activated on the computer or device that your grandchild will be using. This will help to filter out potential predators and threats.
Set up passwords, passcodes, and if possible, fingertip or facial recognition. Be sure to use only the adult’s fingerprints or facial recognition on the device to ensure that the grandchildren are safe at all times. Adults must be in control of the device at all times.
2. Set Time Limits
Set aside specific times for online time. By monitoring times online you’ll reduce the risk of your grandchild’s exposure to sites that could harbor predators.
Choose a time when you can sit beside your grandchild while they’re online. This will help to ensure that they’re being monitored while they’re online. It gives you an extra protective measure to protect your grandchild from potential predators.
3. Set Up Filters And Blocks
Filters and blocks will allow you to prevent your grandchild from accessing certain sites. You can define which sites your grandchild can or cannot access in this fashion. You can choose specific search engines that your grandchild can or cannot access. You can filter out websites that have certain content.
If you’re not familiar with setting up these filters, find a computer professional to help you in understanding how to set up your filters and blocks. Little eyes and little minds are easily manipulated by images and language so choose SafeSearch on your parameters to ensure that your little one is safe.
4. Keep Devices In Communal Areas
Don’t set up a special room for devices to be used in, rather, keep the electronic devices in a communal room where everyone can readily see what is going on. Predators love it when children are left unsupervised and they can swoop in and manipulate or brainwash young children into their will.
By keeping the devices in communal areas you’re protecting your young grandchild from this manipulative trick. You’ll be right there all of the time and can readily see if someone is trying to manipulate your grandchild.
Talk to grandchildren about how important it is for them to tell you if they suddenly get a strange message or a message from someone that they don’t know.
5. Set the Example
If you expect your grandchild to do something specific, you’ll need to model this behavior in your own life. Young children are like sponges. They will see what the adults in the house are doing and they will want to do it as well.
If you expect your grandchildren to be open and honest with you about onscreen time, you’ll want to be open and honest with them about your online time.
Explore new sites together and focus on how the game works and what the goals of the game are together. If the game appears to be veering off of your values, discuss this and consider changing games with your grandchildren. Ask them what they do and don’t like about specific games.
6. Focus on Their Questions
Take the time to focus on their questions. Read the game rules and discuss them together. Help children to choose games that will foster your shared values for respect and friendship. Games should be more than something to do with the grandkids – they should also foster good opportunities for learning and creative thinking.
Many games give the child opportunity to improve on their critical thinking and creativity. Help your grandchildren to choose good gaming names that will help to reflect family values yet remain fun. Put your focus on quality and not quantity for children’s game time.
7. Create Situational Awareness
Before your grandchildren spend any time online, have a frank discussion on what is and isn’t acceptable. Discuss what to do if someone is bullying or leaving them out of a game. How will they react? What are their options? What if someone does something that isn’t appropriate or scares them? Online bullying is real and children need to be prepared to recognize it.
There are a variety of situations that children should be prepared to get help with. If someone is contacting them inappropriately or pressuring them they need to get you immediately for backup. This isn’t acceptable behavior and children need to know this.
Teach children what to do if they are being asked to send pictures, nude pictures, or if they receive pictures or nude pictures. Help children to understand that if something sounds too good to be true, it likely is too good to be true and they need to get out of the situation quickly.
Tell them to get you immediately and that you’ll help them in any situation. Never download anything if it’s a pop-up or comes out of nowhere-this is most likely malware and could cause all sorts of serious issues with the computer. Tell them when in doubt to get you immediately.
8. Explain Dangers of Sharing Pictures And Personal Information
Children don’t yet realize that once something is shared online, it’s out there permanently. Help them to understand that with the right equipment anyone can quickly access pictures and other information that is online. Help them to create a fictitious persona and keep to it.
Never give out personal information online. This includes their name, grandparents’ names, parents’ names, siblings’ names, what school they go to, what state they live in, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in sharing but there are times when it’s not appropriate and can actually put someone in danger. More than one teen has inadvertently given out too much information and been stalked by an online predator. Not all of these situations ended well. Take the time to stop, think, and consider what you’re commenting on or liking before you hit that button.
7. Consider the Source: Fact or Fiction
Just because something is online doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Sort through the information. Find the facts. Research and learn to recognize false information. Check sites to ensure that they’re safe before allowing grandchildren to access these sites. Sites that are false or fake often have garbled language, misspellings, poor grammar, and other major errors. If you’re spotting these signs on a site, it’s likely fake.
Spending time together as a family online can go far in helping to protect children from online predators and keeping grandchildren safe online. Grandparents have a unique opportunity to help parents in raising children in a safe environment. These tips will go far in helping grandparents to keep their grandchildren safe online.
For additional information and printable resources, check out the U3A Network’s Cyber Security Resource Page.