Parents' most powerful protection to safeguarding their kids

Family Reading TogetherI’ve been approached from time-to-time by parents who are not comfortable with using computers, the internet and social media.  This hesitation is often linked to not knowing how to use the parameters to ensure safe use of their computer.  The internet is not bad, but parents need to realize that the internet gives access to everything imaginable and it is as convenient as a click on the keyboard.   

The first step in helping your children make the best use of all the resources on the Internet is to ensure that they are safe.  As Executive Director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and a parent myself, I keep a close watch on anything that threatens children’s safety.  Here are a couple of things that many parents need to consider:

  • Your phone does not have to be turned on to geolocate.  For this reason, parents should always make sure the geolocation settings on their child’s phone are disabled
  • Children should cover their laptop cameras when they are not using them.  There are actual instances of computer hackers who spied on children by hacking into their Wi-Fi and taking control of their webcams.
  • Think violent video games are harmless fun?  Brain scans of children playing games such as Grand Theft Auto show they increase aggressive thoughts and may even alter brain chemistry.

Scary stuff, right?  But parents have access to powerful protection.  Because the single most important safeguard for children online … is their parents.  No child is safer than the one who is comfortable talking to their parents about what they are encountering online.  And no technology can ensure the safety of one who feels they can’t talk to their parents.  Parents don’t have to know all the latest technology – they need to be sure their children trust them.  To do that requires something very old-school: sitting down and talking with your children, establishing relationship, and creating an environment that allows your children to know that they are unconditionally loved.   

Bernie Nojadera
Executive Director
US Conference of Catholic Bishop’s
Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection