Before letting your children watch a film, you probably first take some time to assess whether it’s appropriate. Maybe you check the film’s rating, read the synopsis, look at reviews, or do some other research before plonking down your kids in front of the screen with some popcorn.
But what about online videos?
Most kids nowadays watch online media in one form or another, with YouTube being the most popular provider. Do you do the same type of homework before letting your children stream their favorite YouTube stars? What about the other apps your children use? We were curious to find out more about parental oversight over their children’s online habits, so we conducted a survey of British parents.
We found that over a quarter (27%) of moms and dads let their children watch YouTube videos without any knowledge of their content.
In fact, many parents didn’t seem to know much about the big-name YouTubers their children enjoy: over a third in our survey couldn’t identify a single influencer by name. Keeping up with every new trend or famous face is a tall order in the digital age. But if parents don’t know who DanTDM and LDShadowLady are, for example, it’s clear they won’t know if their videos are suitable for the little ones to watch unsupervised.
We also asked parents if they would welcome a rating system for YouTube stars and their videos. We found that 40% of British parents are in favor of clearer guidance from the government on the age appropriateness of online content.
Aside from YouTube, gaming has always been popular with kids. But online games have become a lot more sophisticated, and many now put your child on a team with strangers.
Only 42% of our survey respondents were aware that children can contact and interact with strangers via the ultra-popular game Fortnite.
Children today are extremely tech savvy – they’re totally fluent with the internet, and can navigate easily from site to app and device to device. But it’s still a parent’s job to educate their kids on smart, appropriate online habits. Unfortunately, it can be a tricky job to balance monitoring your children’s online habits enough to keep them safe without being too invasive.
Luckily we have some tips to keep in mind when supervising your digitally independent kid.
- Talk to your kids. Asking them about the creators they like watching and the topics that interest them is a great first step, and can help you establish appropriate boundaries.
- Find out what games your kids play, and if the games pair them up with strangers. Then you can guide your children on how to recognize unsuitable conversations, and what to do if they receive requests or messages.
- Try to be in the same room as your kids when they go online, even if you’re doing something else like reading a book. You’ll notice their reaction if they accidentally come across something disturbing and you can address it immediately in the right context. Make sure you stay calm if your child is distressed — it won’t be helpful if you’re both panicking!
- Set up parental controls on your child’s devices to give yourself some peace of mind. It’s not a perfect solution, but it will help filter out the most obvious inappropriate content that you definitely don’t want your kid to see.
- Get more involved with your children’s online activity. Find things you can do together, like playing educational games or looking up interesting facts. This will help you understand their online hobbies, and take the necessary security and privacy steps to ensure they remain safe.
- Turn off location services, geotagging and, if possible, metadata fetching on your devices and browsers. If your child innocently shares a photo on their social media profile or sends it to someone, it could inadvertently give away their location and other sensitive information. So make sure you have it locked down.
- Install reliable security software that will help keep the bad guys out of the devices your child uses.
These precautions may seem exhaustive, but trust us, it’s worth it. Your kids may be technically savvy on the internet, but that doesn’t mean they’re emotionally mature enough to explore it without a guiding hand.
You make sure your kids are safe in the car, right? Well, you need to use the same care when they’re online, too. So use our tips to give them a virtual seat belt and buckle them up for a safe and fun digital experience!