Gone are the days when the mobile phone belonged to the patriarch of the home; the breadwinner and you were not supposed to even think of touching it. Today even kids have smartphones. I was brought up in that generation where fathers owned a small transistor radio and no one was to even think of touching the antenna unless you got a go-ahead from ‘the man of the house’.
The accessibility of smartphones to kids has brought its own set of dangers such as online bullying, access to adult content and addiction to the Internet. Well, kids owning smartphones and laptops is a good thing because they are so fast and savvy on these gadgets that they will end up helping you where stuck. It is only last week for example when my 12 year old son was able to configure our new printer. After buying it, I expected it to work on my windows computer. Little did I know that one is required to install printer drivers so that the computer can communicate to the printer.
The behaviors of kids online is best captured in the Japanese anime ‘No Game No Life’. I watched the first few episodes of No Game no Life and I could not help chuckling because the Japanese anime captured the gaming habits of today’s teens in the most descriptive way. The anime which is about two siblings Sora and Shiro captures their online gaming prowess, their addiction to the tech gadgets, their insomnia as they try to quench the ever-thirsty need for just one more game, their adventures into the Internet and their stupid bravado as they accept game offers without caring from whom.
The author of the light novel, Yu Kamiya, from which the story is adapted, painted the two siblings as social rejects. So when they get an invite to play a game out of the world by a god, they jump into it and off they are beckoned into a world that they have never heard of. Here, they have to play by the rules of the god. This part reminds me of ‘The Blue Whale Challenge’, you know it? That game which was luring teens befitting a certain social media profile and would ask them to achieve one challenge after the other until a time where they were asked to commit suicide and gladly they would do so.
There is also the aspect of hacking introduced in the story. It seems as though Saro and Shiro are renowned for download hacked games since at the beginning, one of their competitors shrugs them off as nothing but hackers, not real online gamers.
Yu Kamiya also captures the aspect of betting and playing online games for money which is a pastime for many teens of today. According to a report done by the Guardian, 25000 youths aged between 11 and 16 in Britain alone are problem gamblers. WebMd says that this problem will become even bigger in future.
In this post, I explore some of the things parents can do to make sure their kids are safe online.
Talk to them on the dangers
The first thing even before you think of blocking sites, stopping your home online connection is to talk to the kids on the dangers that await them online. Tell them that there are sex predators and con people who are waiting to lure them into their traps. Tell them of dangerous games such as ‘The Blue Whale Challenge’ that use threats and online bullying to get the kids to do self-harming activities.
Let them use the gadgets on an open area in the house
Rather than hide themselves in their bedrooms, ask the teens to only use the laptops in an open are in the house such as the living room where you can easily peek and see what sites they are browsing.
I have even found some parents who would install cctv cameras in the kids rooms such that they could always retrieve the footage and see what the kids were doing in the Internet from their rooms. You can check out some of the security cameras from Phenomsecurity which has a wide range of cctv cameras that you can install in your home.
The downside of this though is that the kids would feel as though you are infringing on their security were they to discover the hidden camera. You can however make sure that the camera is wireless since wireless is more concealable that wired cameras as explained at https://www.phenomsecurity.com/
Install kids’ safe browsers on their computers
There are some kids’ safe browsers such as kiddie, kidz search and Kidsplorer that have safe search always enabled so that the kid does not visit or search adult or violent content online. Moreover, when it comes to the digital parenting of teens, you have to have a complete browsing history that keeps you updated what sort of websites they have visited and what are the websites they are used to of using frequently. So, to monitor kids and teens browsing activities on computers you can use best TheOneSpy Computer monitoring software to impose parental control on the devices. This will empower the end user all the visited and bookmarked websites in real time with the use of screen recording and internet browsing history tools. No matter, how many websites teens have used, parents can get to know the details and even can block the websites whenever they needed.
Cultivate a healthy relationship with their kids
Most of the kids that I have spoken to have said that they are addicted to the Internet, online games and social media because their parents are never there for them. Yes, they say that you are either too busy to talk to or seem not to know what they want. So, they consult search engines or other people online. As pointed out earlier, the characters Saro and Shiro are social rejects and so they struggle to get a place to belong.
Block harmful sites on the router or computer
You can block unhealthy sites from the router level. This however calls for you to be conversant with router programming.
You can also block sites from being viewable on their computers. If they are using a Windows computer, all you need to do is go to C/ Windows/System32/drivers/etc and then open the file ‘hosts’ using notepad.
If you do not block a site such as youtube for example, scroll to the end of the hosts file and type 127.0.0.1 www.youtube.com
Once you do that, you can go ahead and save the changes in the hosts file. The computer will not visit the youtube site.