There is nothing more important than protecting our children. You’ve heard me say it over and over, parents need to be all up in your child’s business when it comes to online devices and mobile apps.
We can’t deny that the internet has revolutionized our lives, and most days I marvel at the evolution of the platform. We pay our bills, order our groceries, catch up with our friends on social media, and do all of our research online and often from the little device in the palm of our hands — our cellphone.
And, as a society, we are placing this powerful technology into the hands of our children often unchecked and with no coaching. It seems like children are given digital devices at increasingly younger ages, because for all intents and purposes, our kids simply “know” how to use them.
Recently, I was having trouble figuring something out on my phone when my not-even-eight-year-old grandson proceeded to take my phone from me and declared, “Let me fix it, Grandad.” It only took him seconds to intuitively correct the issue.
Digital devices have not only transformed the world but have changed how our children grow-up. I remember as a child, when I headed out the door to meet-up with my friends in the neighborhood, my mom would tell me, “You better be home before sundown.” Today, kids are meeting-up with their friends (and strangers) online and on devices not monitored by their parents or guardians. This allows sexual predators to “walk boldly” into your home and groom your child while you are there! We are raising up a generation which is becoming increasingly more digitally social. Some are calling this a bedroom culture generation, where through smartphones, internet surfing has become more personal and private.
Statistics tell us that about 95% of all kids have a smartphone. Furthermore, of those, about 90% do not have parental controls enabled. Unfortunately, this creates an environment where children have the potential of exposure to pornography and apps where predators lurk.
I recommend you have a very direct conversation with your children about their screen time. Encourage them to make good choices and to prioritize healthy and beneficial activities. You should have all your kids’ passwords for all the apps they use and social media sites they frequent, and don’t let them take their devices to bed at night. Ensure parental controls are in place on all devices. If purchasing a new phone, ask the salesperson to turn on the parental controls before ever leaving the store. By putting parental controls in place and by tracking and managing your child’s screen time, parents, you can protect them.
There are so many positives about having powerful technology right at our fingertips, yet the potentially negative impact on our youngest generation must not be ignored. Parents and guardians, you are the first line of defense against online predators. Children may only be 22% of our population, but they are 100% of our future.
Please visit our website at www.polksheriff.org/internet-safety, to learn how to put parental controls in place along with other valuable internet safety information.
This guest column is from Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.