There has never been a time when children were more connected online than they are today.
According to a 2020 Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission article entitled, “Explainer: How to make sure your kids are safe on the internet,” the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the amount of time children spend online — making parents’ role of protecting their kids online even more vital.
During the recent Navigate 2021 conference, Aug. 7 at First Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas, Nick Burt, director of communications for the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, led a breakout session aimed at equipping parents to protect their children by monitoring their online engagement.
One of the tools Burt encouraged parents to utilize is an audit of their child’s online activities.
“This (online audit) gives parents a simple tool they can use to sit down with their child to discover where they are actively engaging online,” Burt explained. “From there, the parent can decide if they would like to ‘monitor’ their child’s usage on that app and/or site, or if they want to use tools to limit and/or restrict their access or remove their access to it altogether.”
Good starting place
While the online audit is not foolproof or comprehensive, Burt said it is a good place for parents to start when attempting to better understand how their children are active online.
The audit allows parents to identify “online access points” (phone, gaming console, computer), “areas of concern” (pornography, Internet predators, bad language), social media networks, gaming platforms and messaging apps they are accessing, and apps and websites that may be dangerous for them.
The online audit provides an area for parents to make notes and assign each platform, device, app and/or website a rating of “monitor,” “restrict” or “remove,” based on their research and audit of the child’s online habits.
Burt recommended parents walk through a five-step process to build a strategy that works best for their family regarding online accountability and safety:
- Define and identify personal objectives.
- Identify areas of concern.
- Identify tools and resources to address the unique concerns.
- Deploy the plan by setting up proper filters and tools for device- and app/website-specific usage.
- Determine checkpoints to evaluate success and make adjustments as children and technology change.
“Regardless of the tools, resources or filters you might use, communicating with your child and establishing trust are two extremely important factors that should be included in your approach,” Burt noted. “Without this, your child may think you are snooping or spying on them and this may ultimately lead to sneaky behavior and challenging situations.
“Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive tool or resource that can guarantee your child’s safety as they engage online,” Burt added, “but with proper planning and research, you can set healthy boundaries for your child.”
Read about the top five apps your kids are using here.