5 easy hacks and apps to keep your family safe online
'It doesn't necessarily have to be a battle, but I think we need to see a role reversal in the home'
When it comes to tech knowledge in the household, the roles these days are often reversed — kids know more than their parents.
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P.E.I.'s Amber Mac has co-authored a new guide for parenting in the digital world called Outsmarting Your Kids Online: A Safety Handbook for Overwhelmed Parents, along with Michael Bazzell.
"My son is seven years old now, and I've really watched his trends with technology since he was a little boy," Mac told CBC P.E.I.'s Island Morning co-host Matt Rainnie.
"And there really wasn't a go-to guide out there for parents in order to keep kids safe."
'Younger than people realize'
Mac's research says kids start using smartphones when they are as young as two years old, watching sites like YouTube when they're six or eight, and start getting their own phones when they're eight to 10.
"I think it's a lot younger than people realize, and I think the education has to happen at a much younger age than it's happening today," explained Mac.
She points out the many cases of children being lured online, blackmailed or bullied.
So how do you do your best to keep kids safe without spying or constantly questioning them about their online activity?
CBC News asked Mac for her five best tips for keeping kids safe online.
1. Bully alert
If you don't have time to surf your kid's social media sites 24/7, this app can help, Mac said.
"Connect the app to your kid's Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube account. It regularly scans their account for issues that matter the most — from inappropriate language, to bullying and more," she said.
No more questioning your child around the clock, since this reviews and alerts you.
It'll let you know things like whether your kids are sharing their Instagram pics publicly, if there's nudity or if posts are geotagged — which lets people know their geographic location or address.
2. Kid-friendly YouTube
If your child searches LEGO.com on YouTube, they could find a first-person shooter game, which is not appropriate, points out Mac.
You might not know YouTube has an app, YouTube Kids, that's curated just for young children. The site even has a built-in timer so your son or daughter knows when it's time to stop watching.
"Works for pre-school, school age, so your child can safely find LEGO videos or Minecraft videos that are age appropriate," said Mac.
3. Find hidden content
"While you might think that your account or your child's [Facebook] account is private, chances are much of the information being shared is in fact available but hidden," explains Mac.
You can find a Facebook User ID number then search behind the scenes to find this information, explains Mac, using co-author Michael Bazzell's Facebook tools, found here: https://inteltechniques.com/osint/facebook.html.
4. Control Internet access
Control internet access to any device at home at any time using an app called Kidslox, Mac advises.
Parents can use its schedules feature to block access to devices during homework time, dinner time and bedtime.
"Also, turn each device from normal to a restricted mode with a single tap," advises Mac.
5. Make a family pact
Together with your kids, write up an "internet rules agreement" and post it in a common room like the kitchen or living room.
"I think it doesn't necessarily have to be a battle, but I think we need to see a role reversal in the home," Mac points out.
"Parents are just throwing up their arms and saying, 'Oh that's OK, you know kids these days!' But I think parents have to learn to parent in the technology age, and that means they need the information to be able to properly mentor their kids."
If parents do see online activities that concern them, Mac urges them not to overreact.
"That always just closes doors," she said.