In the past, internet safety for toddlers wasn’t a concern for parents, but in the last two decades, things have changed remarkably fast. Internet connected devices are the norm in most households and touchscreen technology has made the internet far more accessible for toddlers and young children.
While older children are more likely to be exposed to greater risks online due to independence, younger children are still at risk. Taking certain steps and teaching your toddler some basic rules will protect them from viewing risky or inappropriate content. This also enables your child to have a positive online experience.
What Are The Internet Safety Risks For Toddlers?
When we talk about internet safety risk, there are three main types children face online:
• Content risk: involve children viewing content that is upsetting, inappropriate or disturbing. This includes pornography, violence towards people or animals, or games/content aimed at older users.
• Conduct risk: this involves behavior that might hurt others and the digital footprint they create. This might accidentally sharing personal content online or clicking on a pop up.
• Contact risk: this involves children being in contact with unknown people via communication apps or games.
How Do I Protect My Toddler Online?
Parents have a critical role in ensuring their toddler is safe when accessing the internet. Here are some tips to help you navigate internet safety with your toddler:
• Go online together or make sure you are nearby when your toddler is online. This ensures you see what your child is seeing and can act quickly if something comes up that is upsetting or inappropriate. You are also ideally placed to teach and model responsible internet use
• Have a media plan for your family. This can cover screen free areas of your home, safety rules such as never accepting ‘friend’ requests from unknown contacts, and ensuring all apps, programs and games are appropriate for your children’s ages.
• Download search engines that are child-friendly such as Kiddle. Use content providers that are specifically aimed at children (ABC Kids, KIDOZ, YouTube Kids etc,). Common Sense Media is an excellent resource for parents and caregivers when selecting appropriate web, app or media content for children.
• Create a bookmark list for your toddler’s favourite apps or websites so they’re easy to find and your child is less likely to go looking at other things.
Always check the privacy settings on your devices. Use the parental controls and disable things like location services and one-click payment options.
Ensure other family members follow the internet safety rules when they’re online with your toddler.
An important step in protecting your toddler online is to begin teaching them what the internet is. A study of 4 year olds found 60% of children in that age group couldn’t describe the internet, with most saying it was something they play games on or being ‘in the iPad’.
It’s quite tricky to talk to very young children about what the internet actually is in an age appropriate way. This needs to be an ongoing conversation that helps them to eventually understand the internet is a network of technologies that shares information created and collected by many people.
Being online together can help you teach your child how the internet works and that there’s good and bad internet available. By talking to your child about what they are watching or playing online, it enables them to feel safe sharing if they see something scary or upsetting.
Sam McCulloch is a freelance content writer and editor, with a special interest in parenting, birth and early education. Sam believes in the importance of building a village so no parent is left behind or feels unsupported. When she’s not writing great content, you can find her trying to keep up with three kids, enjoying the great outdoors or reading a good book.