August 30, 2016
Making Your Computers Safe for Your Grandkids
Whether you see your grandkids for occasional visits or you are lucky enough to be able to see them regularly, you’ve likely experienced the phenomenon of the younger generation’s attachment to their screens and devices. Many people of the older generations find the constant presence of phones, tablets, and laptops in their grandkids’ hands to be extremely intrusive. Worse still, if grandparents feel as though their grandkids’ activities online are totally mysterious, they can feel powerless to relate to their grandkids and worse still, to know that their grandkids are being safe on the Internet.
So what can you do to be better informed about Internet safety? And what can you do to keep your grandkids safe online? Here are a few steps you might take to make your home computers safe.
While for some grandparents, getting over the hurdle of learning new technology can be extremely intimidating, having at least some computer and Internet literacy is a very important step in understanding what your grandkids are doing online. If you don’t know where to start, have a family member or friend help you learn the basics about the best and safest ways to use your computer like making sure your virus protection is up to date and making sure your browsers are set up to delete cookies and protect your passwords and other sensitive information.
Next, it will be helpful for you to know what kinds of websites your grandkids are likely to use based on their ages and interests. In particular, you’ll want to be fairly well-versed on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can even get your own accounts on these websites if you want to! But the most important thing to know about these sites is the types of content your grandkids might be looking at and the various appeals of these websites. For example, on Facebook users can share messages, photos, videos, and links with their friends and family members. On Twitter, users can share the same kind of content with their “followers.” This can include friends and family but may also include strangers. On Instragram, users can share photos with their “followers.”
In general, most kids will be using these websites for safe purposes. But there have been some occasions where kids have used these websites for things like bullying or sharing explicit photos. So if you want to take a first step towards keeping your grandkids Internet safe, make sure you know how to recognize the signs of inappropriate use!
As most grandparents know, even good grandkids will sometimes try to get away with things they know they shouldn’t be doing. For this reason, you should always try to be aware of the ways your grandkids might be using the Internet in your home. Again, while most kids will use the Internet for safe and legal purposes, there are some extreme cases where kids have made wrong choices online or have even stumbled into serious trouble after making a mistake by accidentally accessing something illegal.
Since you can’t constantly be watching what your grandkids are doing online, one thing you might consider doing is installing a family filtering program like Rated 4 Kids that can help protect your grandkids from inappropriate content when you can’t. In particular, Rated 4 Kids allows users to set up blocks on certain types of online content from all of their household devices or just the ones being used by kids. The most important point here is that the system doesn’t only block the specific websites you list–it can also block any content or websites it deems similar based on the keywords you chose, the ways other users rank websites, and the type of content you have blocked in the past.
Nothing prevents problems and arguments before they occur like having a clear and specific set of fair rules! Make sure your grandkids know exactly what your expectations are for them when they use the Internet in your home. You will want to pay attention to things like the types of websites they visit and the amount of time they are allowed to spend online. Kids can have a very difficult time understanding when “enough is enough” and specialists have determined that kids really can develop addiction-like behaviors with the Internet and online games. Make sure that you intervene if you have any concerns that they are spending too much time on the computer. You can even consider using those family filtering programs to set limits on the length of time or the specific hours your grandkids can use the Internet or a device.
As a final note, always remember to keep your advice and warning to your grandkids clear and simple. While you may not be able to develop quite such a sophisticated technology literacy as your grandkids can, all you really need is a little bit of familiarity with the Internet to help them make smart choices. After all, learning how to behave while online is just one of the elements of growing up that their grandparents can help facilitate and guide.