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Keeping Kids Safe Online

For this issue we are focussing on how to keep children and youth safe online. Whether it’s being exposed to inappropriate content in games, videos or websites, cyberbullying, or even child luring, there are risks to our most vulnerable when they are online. While many apps, streaming services and even devices now offer “parental controls” that allow you to set limits on what your child can access and for how long, the fact is that nothing can replace appropriate adult supervision when it comes to protecting your children. KL spoke with Kerri Isham, child safety champion and sexual health educator to get some tips and resources for parents about online safety.

1. Devices (cellphones, tablets, laptops) need to be kept in a high traffic area (kitchen or living room) and not in the bedroom.

The age can be negotiated within the family when more privacy is given/requested, but Kerri’s recommendation is no one under 16.

2. Collect devices at a specified time (for example 9 p.m.)

Youth have told Kerri over and over that they access the internet once their parents are asleep. They are accessing chat rooms (with strangers), gaming (everywhere kids are that is where predators are) and pornography. Devices should not be recharged in child/youth's bedroom.

3. Use of filtering devices is a must to reduce inappropriate content. Some examples include Boomerang, Mobicip, Disney Circle, Gryphon and NetSanity. Some of these products come with a small annual fee, but allow you to monitor, filter and block content, as well as setting limits on screen time use.

4. Have regular discussion about what is and what is not okay to share on-line. Ensure that your children aren’t sharing personal information like their name, age, or location, and that they should never agree to meet in person with someone they meet online without a parent or guardian present.

More resources to explore: Here you’ll find information about the ever-changing online interests of young people, the potential risks they face and proactive strategies to help keep your child/adolescent safe while online. There are also resources to help you address or report serious issues like cyberbullying or child luring. Common Sense Media is an independent non-profit that provides reviews of apps, games, movies and books to help parents and educators make informed media choices for their children. You can check out whether the media is appropropriate for certain age groups and find helpful advice on internet privacy and security for your family. The Canadian Centre for Child Protection operates, Canada's tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. The NetSmartz program offers age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on- and offline. The program is designed for children ages 5-17, parents and guardians, educators, and law enforcement. With resources such as videos, games, downloadable activities, and presentations, NetSmartz entertains while it educates.

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