The Internet has become such a major part of the world today. Kids of all ages, especially teenagers, are using the Internet on a daily basis through a variety of methods. Because many parents aren’t aware of all the technology that is available and how kids get online today, it can often be difficult for parents to take the steps that are necessary to ensure their children stay safe online. Learning how your children are gaining access to the Internet and what each device is capable of doing can help you keep a tighter reign on your child’s Internet behaviour.

How Kids Get Online: Your Home Computer

If you have a home PC, chances are your child is accessing the Internet from that computer when he is home. This is the device you will have the most control over, allowing you to monitor what your child is doing and protect him from the problems that can occur on the Internet. Installing parental controls and key loggers can help you keep track of what your child is doing on your home computer without having a lot of computer knowledge to help you. However, you will still need to learn about all the other ways your child may be accessing the Internet to ensure he can handle himself properly online.

How Kids Get Online: Public Internet

Every time your child goes to the library or school, odds are he is able to access the Internet through a PC at one of these locations. In general, these computers are present to help people research topics or to provide those who don’t have Internet access any other way. However, it is this type of Internet access you won’t have much control over. The good news is if you are diligent in obtaining all your child’s user names and passwords for the sites he uses on a regular basis, you will be able to keep an eye on these accounts for any problem behaviour, even when he is accessing the Internet from a public access computer somewhere away from home.

How Kids Get Online: Laptops

Laptops have become a popular method of using the Internet and computing today. Whether you have a wireless connection or your child is using a mobile Internet access device, he will be able to use the laptop in areas of your home where you can’t closely monitor his behaviour. Before you allow your child to freely use a laptop, you may wish to install parental controls and possibly even a key logger that will send all his keystrokes to your email address so you can monitor his behaviour, even when you can’t see what is going on. The laptop will allow your child to take his device with him to school or other locations and access the Internet there too, making it a little more difficult to monitor his activities online.

How Kids Get Online: Mobile Phones

The use of mobile phones has skyrocketed in recent years. While the phones started out as a way for people to make phone calls while they were away from home or to keep in touch, they are now more like miniature computers than the phones of the past. With the advent of smartphones and data plans, cell phones are now a primary way how kids get online today. In the early stages of smartphones, the websites that could be visited were extremely limited. Today, a smartphone works just the same as any other computer, allowing children to visit any website they desire and even download apps they can use both online and offline.

Mobile applications lead to a whole new issue for parents. These mobile apps provide a wide variety of possibilities for activities, interactions and games online. Mobile apps are known for collecting personal information automatically, tracking location, charging fees and sharing information through social media sites. If you aren’t careful and don’t teach your child to be careful with these apps, he could be breaking some of the Internet rules you have put in place and cost you money in the process. This is why it is important to talk to your mobile phone provider about the possibilities for parental controls and placing limitations on your child’s Internet usage on his phone.

How Kids Get Online: Tablets

While laptops are still a possibility, more people are turning to tablets instead. The iPad was the first one, but it is not the only one by far. Some of these table computers are designed for apps and Internet access exclusively, while others, such as the Nook and Kindle, are primarily e-readers but can also access the Internet. Just like mobile phones, these devices make it easy for your child to access the Internet from just about anywhere. This can put your child at an even greater risk for dangerous Internet habits without many ways for parents to control the behaviour. Checking your child’s tablet on a regular basis and monitoring the usage of any data plan can help you identify any issues.

How Kids Get Online: The Risks

Technology going mobile and allowing kids to access the Internet on such a large variety of devices from anywhere can increase the level of risk for Internet usage. Today, many kids are online from the moment they wake up until the moment they go to sleep at night. With all the chances to use the Internet, it is easier for children to fall into trouble online, including:

  • Online predators
  • Pornography
  • Cyberbullying

In addition to these risks, all this online time can begin to interfere with a child’s grades, especially if he is concentrating more on browsing the Internet than doing homework or studying. A child can also lose interest in doing the things kids are supposed to do, such as spending time with friends or enjoying the outdoors. However, it is up to parents to teach a child how to create the proper balance and avoid the risks.

How Kids Get Online: Talk to Your Child

It doesn’t always matter how kids get online; if parents are able to talk to the child and set appropriate ground rules, children can be safer online. Even if you feel setting rules aren’t going to make a difference if you aren’t able to enforce them all the time, the way you talk to your child about the potential risks and how those risks would negatively impact him can make a real difference. Make your child a part of the discussion instead of simply talking to him. As you discuss the potential problems that he can encounter, no matter how he accesses the Internet, make sure he understands the potential consequences of those actions. Sometimes a child gets involved with negative behaviour because he doesn’t understand the consequences. It is your job to help him understand.

When you aren’t familiar with the Internet and how kids get online today, you are at a clear disadvantage. Children still need guidance from their parents to learn to behave properly online and deal with any problems they may encounter. Because children are accessing the Internet in new ways, some of which don’t allow parents as much control, it is even more important to make sure children understand the natural consequences that can occur. Monitoring the behaviour as closely as possible will help you guide your child and execute the right consequences for bad behaviour.