As parents, our top priority is to protect our children and ensure their safety in both the physical and digital worlds. With the rise of technology and the increasing presence of social media platforms, we must be vigilant about our children's online activities. One concerning aspect is the possibility of your child talking to strangers online, posing potential risks and dangers.
In this article, I want to address this pressing issue from one mum to another, offering five practical ways to check if your child is talking to strangers online. By implementing these strategies, we can gain valuable insights into our children's digital interactions and take the necessary steps to keep them safe.
Join me as we explore effective ways to navigate the digital landscape, promoting healthy digital habits and protecting our children from potential online threats.
Use Parental Control Software
There are several parental control software apps competing in the market right now. With features that allow you to monitor, filter, and block sites, a parental control software app empowers you to safeguard your child in the digital space. You can see your child's online activity, review their browsing history, and limit their access and time online.
Parental control software apps enable you to know what your children interact with online, curb potential digital addiction, and protect them from adult content and unwanted messages.
While there are a few that offer free software, I advice that you invest in software offered by a reputable software company. This will give you a wider range of features and entitles you to professional customer service.
Do regular device checks
Sometimes life becomes so hectic that we forget to check the threads of conversation our kids are involved in on their apps. Sometimes curiosity also gets the better of our kids and they could decide to download apps that we haven't approved and it slips by us.
This is why it's important for us to regularly check not only their app account activity on our own devices but their actual devices themselves. Check their most-used apps, inboxes, recent contacts, and their media gallery. If you can also check their recently deleted files, do that too.
Suspicious messages, adult-natured or strange images, and unusual browser queries shouldn't be ignored, as these can either be normal signs of growing curiosity OR alarm bells for possible unwanted correspondence with strangers.
Monitor their social media
Social media is incredibly time-consuming and addictive to people of all ages. Despite being trendy and deeply engaging, not all social media platforms are appropriate for your children. A lot of these platforms are conducive grounds for awful people to prey on children.
Protected by the anonymity and privacy which are easily afforded in these social media platforms, strangers with nasty motives have become emboldened in targeting children. As a mum, you need to be smarter and ten steps ahead of these people.
Choose which platforms your children can take part in. Be logged in their accounts on your own devices and check who messages them or leaves comments on their posts. Make sure that you know everyone who gets in touch with your child on social media.
If you see someone you don't know in your kid's inbox (or maybe it's someone you know but shouldn't be really 'that' close to your kids), do some light investigation and see if this person is someone you can trust your child to have conversations with.
Set their privacy settings
One of the best ways to prevent your child from talking to strangers online is to set your kids' device privacy settings yourself.
In most unfortunate situations, it's the predatory adults who first reach out to children. This can be prevented if you stop strange accounts from connecting with your children's accounts by setting them to their most private and restrictive options.
You should check these from time to time in order to ensure that these settings you have made are maintained.
Connect with them online
Follow your kids' accounts and be on 'friends' status with them online.
Being visibly connected with your children online will not only allow you to see all your kids posts and everyone who likes and comments on them but it can also scare away potential creeps who are planning to get your kids' attention on these apps and platforms.
Take note which of your kid's connections keep liking and commenting on your kid's posts. If something feels off, honour that instinct and investigate.
When it comes to protecting your children's innocence and safety online, you can never be too paranoid. Preventing risky situations such as your child talking to strangers online can spell the huge difference between your precious children being protected and them being pursued by dangerous adults.
Educate yourself (and them)
The digital world expands and evolves madly by the minute. The sooner we learn how to catch up and understand even just the most basic concepts of trending platforms and online activities, the better we are equipped as mums in protecting our children from talking to strangers online.
Research about the various methods used by predatory adults and their behaviours online. Learn how they think and how they approach children. Discuss these learnings in simplest terms with your children and teach them how to protect themselves from strangers (especially adults) who have no business talking to them.
Ask them if there is anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable online and assure them that they can trust you and they should turn to you if they are receiving strange and adult attention online.
Help your kids understand, with the least fear possible, why some adults are bad, and why they could be dangerous to talk to.
Conclusion: Is your child talking to strangers online?
Being vigilant and covering all bases (offline and online) in checking if your child is talking to strangers online is an important task that should be taken seriously. Ensuring digital security is a huge part of protecting your kids' physical and psychological welfare as they grow up and become more engaged and exposed to the world of today.
Regular monitoring, vetted and purposeful connections, updating privacy settings, and educating one's self are ways we can watch over our kids better. Amidst the labyrinth of communication opportunities offered by the Internet, it's our responsibility to keep our children safe.
Have an open communication with your kids and be their most-trusted adult. Encourage them to participate in wholesome and real-life friendships with other well-adjusted kids of their age so they do not find interest in talking to strange adults.