Want to keep your family safe online? Since last year, the conversation that society has had about the role that technology plays in our lives has changed dramatically. The current global crisis has left us locked in, concentrating much of our work, learning, family time, and socializing under one roof. Technology is in the middle of all these activities. It’s helping us connect in new ways, but it also opens us up to more security breaches and threats while increasing our screen time.
To stay sane and keep our families safe in today’s new normal, we’ll have to keep the conversation going about how to best use technology productively. As we adapt our homes, our schedules, and our networks, we will have to discover how technology fits into our lifestyles during the COVID crisis and beyond.
To address this need, we’ll provide practical advice, strategies, and insights, exploring five steps to extend the conversation about using technology safely and productively:
Get started with hardware basics
Now that children use digital devices as their primary learning tools, it is important that they have access to a device designed to handle those use cases. What kind of devices do you have in your house? They can be great for entertainment and general computing – handling household chores, browsing, and gaming. But they may not be able to cope with the rigorous work you need to do and the learning at home that your children have signed up for. Attending classes on a smartphone is not functional.
Establish a strong school and work environment in your home. As much as possible, try to equip your family with devices designed for learning and working. This is the best tip to Keep Your Family Safe Online.
Control what is happening on your network
What devices are running on your network? Who runs them? And when?
These are all key questions when your family shares small spaces, crowded hours, and limited bandwidth. It is important to be able to have visibility of what devices are running on your network and how they are being used.
My colleagues are trying to help school-age and even preschool-age children who are used to a highly prepared environment with specific tools implemented (math, reading, etc.) on devices that are physically and digitally hardened to keep them safe. Now you, as a parent, have to rebuild that world on your home network through an astonishing and confusing variety of sites, logins, applications, and packages.
I have teenagers at home, so all these changes have puzzled them. They sleep late, touch their phones all day, and stay up late. By looking at my network traffic, I can see that one of my sons was up until 4 am playing video games without having to dwell on his sleeping habits. This gives me context when I see that he is tired and allows me to have a healthy conversation with him. May I suggest that you put your device away at a certain time so that you can at least get some rest. To keep your family safe online should be your first priority.
Establish new rules and controls
We are all still getting used to a “new normal.” How you go about it will vary greatly depending on the age groups of your children. What you have to convey is that this is a different situation and the whole family has to adapt. At the same time, we are expected to let our children use technology, but limit the time they spend in front of the screen. That’s enough to challenge any parent’s sanity.
With work schedules and more demands on housework, it is very likely that you can “freely control” your children on the Internet at least part of the time. If you can’t look over your shoulder, you can protect your kids from inappropriate content.
As academic and leisure activities are combined into a home learning model, setting time restrictions on when they can and can’t use certain sites may be more important now than ever. Kids are missing out on the socialization they normally get in school, so you may want to be more flexible in helping them find healthy ways to keep their family safe online with their friends using technology.
Give them the opportunity to connect socially
Under normal circumstances, we would all encourage our children to connect with their friends in real life and put away the devices. But these are not normal circumstances, and it is important to allow children to spend time with their friends online.
For younger children, be sure to schedule a time for them to connect with friends, just like you would with playdates. For teens, allow them more time to connect with their friends online, but keep their sleep and study habits in mind.
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Have and have the conversation again
While technology will serve an important purpose, it is critical to step away from time to time. You need to set a good example. Make sure you exercise, eat regularly, and spend time off-screen talking, playing with pets, or just doing nothing.
Take a closer look and see how your kids are doing. This can be a stressful time, missing activities, and adjusting to new sets of rules. Take the time to understand what your children are going through and do your best to stay together as a family.
Don’t forget about cybersecurity
Pushing technology to the limit raises the possibility that something will go wrong. Attacks in the era of the coronavirus are increasing and families must be more vigilant than ever to defend themselves against threats.
Perform a security sweep to ensure you are following best practices. Pay attention to old devices, printers and peripherals, and smart devices that can open the door to your home to attack. Make sure you follow good router security practices and make sure all your devices are protected by a strong antivirus program.
Technology has the power to help us get through this difficult stretch. Having open conversations about how we can better use it will help us better adapt to other situations in the future.