How To Keep Your Location Independent Child Safe Online
A recent post on the NuNomad blog talked about the pros and cons of travelling with kids at different ages. It’s an excellent post, packed with useful info for location independent parents – or those planning a nomadic lifestyle.
One of the things it brought to my mind was the need to keep your kids connected with the world beyond. But how do you do that safely in a world where the internet has brought not just benefits but real dangers to children?
In talking to friends recently, some of them were amazed that my seven year old had her own email accounts, but for me it was an obvious way for her to connect with friends and relatives abroad. She is an excellent reader and enjoys writing emails, so I just had to find a way to make it easy and safe.
To do that, I created an email account for her on my own domain, using Google Apps. I like Gmail because it has a great spam filter and since I limit what she signs up for there shouldn’t be any worrying emails in her inbox in the immediate future. She liked the fact that she could have a child-friendly theme (featuring dolls and ice creams, I believe). I disabled chat and contact sharing, but will review the chat decision when she’s a bit older. For phone calls, she uses my Skype account when she needs to chat.
Like most kids, my daughter loves games and many of these are online. I adapted some guidelines from an internet safety book someone sent me to create some rules that will keep her safe. She knows that she is not allowed to sign up for anything without asking first (and when she does I check the parental information thoroughly to see that her privacy is guaranteed).
For now, I am banning forums though she can use the private messaging system on some of the sites. I’ve found the Disney sites such as Toontown and Pixie Hollow to be pretty good, as is Moshi Monsters – and of course Cbeebies/CBBC is a great site for educational and fun games.
I have enabled Google Safe Search on both browsers on her computer to prevent her from accidentally discovering anything inappropriate. I’ve found this a better option than the parental control software I used before because it allows her to follow her interests while still staying safe (rather than blocking almost everything, which frustrated us both, especially when I kept forgetting the unlock password).
I’ve told my daughter about the importance of keeping personal details secure (no giving out her real name, address, phone number or email address). She’s been very good at sticking to the rules.
For older children, consider a contract with your child about observing the rules for internet safety – a good starting point for an online safety pledge is here.
The final aspect of making sure she stays safe is being in the room (most of the time) when she’s on the computer. That way I can use my parental sixth sense to spot any potential issues early. How do you handle internet and connectivity issues for your location independent children?
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