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Tips to keep kids connecting online safe

During lockdown, didn’t we all do a major pivot on letting our kids connect online? Pre-pandemic, letting the kids chat online was often a big no-no. Then we were locked down and the only way for kids to stay connected with their friends was online.

Suddenly we were happy they were able jump online and hang with their mates, and besides, they were only on social apps specially designed for kids, with all these great safety features and measures to keep little ones safe, right?

Now that school’s back and the kids are reconnecting in person, we can expect a surge in after-school get-togethers.

But just how friendly are ‘kids’ social media apps, and how can you make them safer?

Messenger Kids

This won’t come as any surprise to parents (especially the tired ones), but kids love to chat. Messenger Kids is a great way for kids to chat after school with a high level of safety. In the past, if kids wanted to DM they would have to have social media accounts, with all their dangers and hidden activity. Now, with Messenger Kids they can direct message each other without their own socials.

Messenger Kids accounts are set up through your own Facebook account. All you need to do is download the app to the kids’ device and link it to your account.

With Messenger Kids friend requests come to you and you can approve or deny them. You’re able to set time limits, see who they are chatting to, and even log the child out remotely.

As an added bonus, you can also send messages and video chat with your kids yourself.

YouTube Kids

YouTube is highly addictive for kids, in the same way as TV is, although with the added enticement of recommended videos popping up at the end of each video and the ability to search up more stuff you love.

There’s also a lot of dark and unexpectedly frightening material on the app – but is YouTube Kids any different?

Yes! YouTube Kids is a kid-friendly app that streams age-appropriate content (you can choose age settings) but also gives parents the chance to view channels and videos that have been reviewed by real people to make sure they’re safe for kids.

Because the kids account is linked to your google account, you can see what they are watching and commenting on. You also have the ability to restrict viewing times and block videos. Making sure your kids are safe on YouTube Kids does require some monitoring, but it is still a much safer option than the regular YouTube app.

Roblox

It’s being called the new kids playground. Once kids would hang out in parks after school, now they are all meeting up in virtual playgrounds, competing with each other in obstacle course games and role playing in others.

The big risk with Roblox is that while kids can get together and play, so can others. Early on, inappropriate chatting and even grooming in Roblox was reported, but happily, the company was pretty quick to get on it and now has a team of real people monitoring conversations, flagging particular words, and jumping on reports quickly.

Also, players are not allowed to send photos or videos in the game.

To keep your child safe, you can disable chatting with anyone other than their friends, and if you have your child’s password (you should), you can see who they are friends with and delete and block those you choose.

Safety rules apply

Like all online activity, even if your kids are jumping on social apps specially made for kids, the rules around internet safety still apply: make sure you have access to their account and then make sure you check their activity regularly; teach your kids about the dangers of connecting online; and make sure when they are online, they’re in a public place like the loungeroom.

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