Children are using the Internet more and more. The latest Unicef report revealed that 1 in 3 digital users in the world is a child. They also access the Internet at younger and younger ages. In countries like Spain, children under the age of 15 are just as likely to use the Internet as adults.
There is no doubt that digital technologies expand children’s learning and educational opportunities by allowing them to access valuable information, as well as being a valid source of entertainment and fun. However, when children access the Internet they also expose themselves to different risks and are more vulnerable to harm, both in the virtual world and offline.
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The most important risks to which children are exposed on the Internet
- Inappropriate content. If children surf the Internet without filters or controls, they are exposed to content that is unwanted or inappropriate for their age. This can be violent or adult content, hateful or discriminatory material, invasive advertising, or websites that advocate dangerous behavior such as self-harm, suicide, and anorexia. This type of content can have a great impact on the child’s mind, causing trauma or promoting risky behavior.
- Contact with strangers. When children access forums or social networks they can establish contact with strangers, which implies a risk since they could find people who try to persuade them to carry out unhealthy or directly dangerous behavior. In some cases, these contacts are not limited to the virtual environment, but encourage the child to meet in the real world, even representing a danger to her physical integrity.
- Vulnerable behaviors. This type of risk occurs when children are not clear about how they should behave on the Internet and commit acts that leave them vulnerable. Such is the case of children or adolescents who post compromising photos or videos, share content that is harmful to other children or provide personal data that ends up in the wrong hands.
- Internet addiction. The Internet also carries a high risk of addiction, especially in children and adolescents whose brain mechanisms for self-control are not yet sufficiently developed. In fact, a study carried out in 31 countries indicated that approximately 6% of children already suffer from Internet addiction, a disorder that can damage their social relationships and affect their academic performance.
To minimize these risks, it is important that parents protect their children by offering them the safest possible browsing environment and educating them to learn to detect the dangers that lurk on the Internet.
Educate children so that they learn to avoid risks on the Internet
When children are old enough to access the Internet and social networks, parents should teach them to use them responsibly and safely. Children should be aware of the different dangers they can find online and should trust their parents enough to tell them about any problems they have.
They should also understand that everything they post online, from social media comments to videos, is no longer private material. Likewise, they must know how to differentiate the private content that they should not upload from those that they can share, and they must learn to protect their personal data online so as not to expose themselves to unnecessary risks.
Lastly, they should be aware that there are limits to the use of the Internet. Although the virtual environment can be rewarding and fun, they need to find other incentives in the offline world, from playing with other children in the park to spending quality time with the family. Parents will be your role model, so it’s important to set technology-free schedules at home.
Create a secure home network
Creating a secure home network is essential for your children to take their first steps on the Internet properly protected. You can resort to applications or services that allow you to create independent users for each member of the family, with different accesses and security levels, so that you can better control the activity of your children.
Vodafone, for example, offers a very interesting family package as part of its “Unlimited Home” offer that includes the Secure Net Family service , which not only protects you from viruses and fraudulent pages, but also gives you the certainty that your children They will navigate safely on all the devices in the home.
This service is activated by default and you can configure it through the management application. Thanks to its advanced parental control features, you can easily manage the digital life of your home and the smallest of the house. With Secure Net Family you can:
- Set filters or content categories to block your children’s access to sensitive or dangerous content that is inappropriate for their age, such as violent or mature content. You can also block betting sites or social networks. In fact, when you block a category you not only prevent web access but also the applications that are in that category, so your child will be well protected.
- Disable data connection to block Internet access for a specific profile for as long as you decide. So you can establish periods of disconnection so that your children do their homework or spend time with the family away from the screens.
- Schedule rest times according to the different profiles, so that your children can only connect to the Internet during the hours you decide. This way you will prevent them from developing a dependency on the Internet and you will encourage them to carry out enriching activities in the offline world. You can activate a daily rest schedule or for whole days, such as the weekend.
- Activate a study time during which you only allow access to websites or pages with educational content, so that your children are not distracted and can concentrate while doing their homework.
In addition to these security settings, it is important that you do not neglect monitoring. You can respect the privacy of your children without leaving them at the mercy of the dangers that hide on the Internet. A simple and viable measure is to place the computer in the living room since, without actually reading the screen, you will minimize many of the risky behaviors on the Internet, from using the webcam with strangers to browsing sites that are not recommended or downloading unreliable software.