Kids, Tablets, Phones and Staying Safe Online

I don’t know about you but whenever I see a little kid playing with a tablet, I flash back to the beginning of Orson Scott Card’s Enders Game and think, “how did he know?!” It’s amazing how quickly tablets (and, to a lesser degree, smartphones) have gone from things we were pretty sure we didn’t want our kids using at young ages to things that are now almost common school supplies.

Seriously: some schools actually supply tablets to their students. Even when those kids are still in elementary school. I don’t know about you, but my second grader has a hard time remembering her lunchbox when she gets off the bus. I’m terrified over the idea of having to replace a lost tablet.

While there is no doubt that tablets can be a phenomenal learning tool (there are so many fantastic educational apps out there), having that quick, easy, and unfettered access to the Internet is also worrisome.
Here are some of the things we’ve done as a family to keep the tablet a safe and educational and present (as in “not lost”) tool and not a scary and potentially dangerous threat to our little ones’ childhoods.

Security Software
It’s true: you can install security software on tablet computers the same way that you would on a laptop or desktop computer. In fact, the same people who make, say, Windows and Mac security software, also make OS and Android security software for tablets. We installed this and turned its settings and firewalls all the way up.
But don’t stop with your tablet’s operating system. You’ll want to go into the individual apps and make sure those security settings are turned all the way up too. Make sure your kids are automatically signed out when exiting an app, that the location sharing is turned off, etc.

Set Up Parental Controls
These will look different depending on your tablet’s OS. There’s a great article on The Next Web that breaks down the two systems, side by side. The great thing about these controls is that you can do targeted and broad blocking. Don’t want your kids to be surfing Facebook while they should be doing homework? Block it. Don’t want your third grader accidentally winding up on an adult site after an accidentally entendre laden Google search? Block sites with adult content.

Tracking Apps and Software
Kids can be pretty careless with their stuff. This is why you want to make sure that you’ve got tracking software installed on the tablet. This way, if it gets lost or stolen you’ll have a better chance of finding it. It’s also helpful to install tracking software that will render the tablet useless (except for the tracking software) until the proper code is put in, which reduces the temptation of others to simply keep the tablet for themselves (or sell it for a profit).

Talking Is Always Good
It isn’t a matter of “if” your kids accidentally stumble across a site that is too mature for them; it is a matter of “when.” Staying calm helps them trust that you won’t freak out about other things they see that might be confusing. It also helps to encourage them to come to you about anything they see that they don’t understand and to tell you if anybody is doing anything that’s making them uncomfortable.

Remember: you won’t always be able to use the tablet for them. By following these tips, though, you’ll make sure that they stay as safe and protected as possible while using their mobile devices.