Keeping your kids safe online is a topic that will always be relevant. Recently, Apple announced its new operating system, iOS 12, at its annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California.

One feature of iOS 12 in particular really got me thinking about the topic of kids’ safety on the internet, and that’s the new app being launched this fall called Screen Time. According to Apple, Screen Time “is great for everyone to better understand and manage their device usage, but can be especially helpful for kids and families. Parents can access their child’s Activity Report right from their own iOS devices to understand where their child spends their time and can manage and set App Limits for them.”

App Limits can help in keeping your kids safe online

And by app limits, from what I’ve been able to gather, Apple means that you can literally set timers on applications that will limit time spent by your kids on their devices. I think that’s brilliant, and a great step toward curbing invested time in internet and electronic usage.

After all, the internet is filled with inappropriate content, unkind comment sections, and outright predators. Which brings me to another story I’ve been following closely…

Are we familiar with YouTube Kids?

It’s an app YouTube created to “make it safer and simpler for kids to explore the world through online video and everything in between.” YouTube also goes on to explain that they “use a mix of filters, user feedback and human reviewers to keep the videos in YouTube Kids family-friendly. But no system is perfect and inappropriate videos can slip through, so we’re constantly working to improve our safeguards and offer more features to help parents create the right experience for their families.”

Perhaps the last part was added after various news agencies began to report such headlines as “YouTube Kids app is STILL showing disturbing videos, including footage on how to sharpen knives…”

YouTube has been criticized for using algorithms to filter material rather than using human moderators to judge what might be appropriate.

There have been hundreds of easily accessible, disturbing videos found on YouTube Kids in recent months that have featured violent acts occurring to various well known children’s characters, including some from Disney’s “Frozen,” the Minions franchise, and Thomas the Tank Engine.

As a result, parents, regulators, advertisers and law enforcement have become increasingly concerned about the open nature of the service.

So what can you do as a parent to help keep your children safe?

Well, one reason it’s so hard to offer concrete rules governing kids and the internet is that no 2 kids are alike. It’s like keeping kids safe after prom. Some might just need a curfew, others a breathalyzer.

And as muddied a picture as it all sounds, at least some legal guidelines do exist. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule, for example, established in 1998, creates safeguards like keeping children off of social media under the age of 13. But who are we kidding? How many millions of under 13-year-olds are on Facebook?

But if you don’t give in, and the more you instill a sense of structure in the early years, the more likely the dividends will pay off later. As your kid gets older, they’re going to be far more likely to find ways around any parental controls that you set for them. Your goal, then, is to make sure that by that point, they don’t need them anymore anyway.

Also, talk to your kids about online safety at an early age, when they start to do anything that involves the internet. Highlight the fact that the online world parallels the real world and that there are both safe and unsafe things out there. This enables you to discuss the things that are there to protect us like internet security protection, passwords, etc.

Regularly remind them that websites can redirect to other websites without them being aware and get them involved when installing patches, so that they know the importance of ensuring systems are up-to-date.

And of course, despite stories of faulty filters, use parental controls. They aren’t perfect, but they’re pretty close. They’ll help you in the monitoring process. Boundaries are often seen as restrictive and draconian by kids. But boundaries also bring freedom. They provide a clear understanding of what is safe and secure. Boundaries tell them where they are free to explore and roam.