The Internet has become an extremely valuable resource for gathering information and communicating with others, for both adults and children. Unfortunately, it has also become a breeding ground for crime. Children are especially vulnerable to Internet crimes, for several reasons. Children may assume that people who contact them online are not strangers, and they may also assume that they are anonymous when using the computer. Predators know otherwise. While you want to have your children develop Internet experience and expertise, you also want to keep them safe. Here are 7 important safety tips that parents should know about for children who use the Internet.
- Be acutely aware of what your children are doing on the Internet. Keep the family computer in a central location, not off in a corner room out of the main living space. You want to be able to casually peek over your child’s shoulder occasionally to see what’s going on. Spend time talking to your kids about Internet safety and keep yourself aware of how they are using the Internet.
- Remember that kids are very Internet savvy—and will quickly surpass the skills of most adults. As a parent, be sure to brush up on your Internet skills and awareness, so that you can not only communicate with your kids about it but also so that you can monitor them adequately.
- Review the browser history regularly. Check to see if there are any questionable websites listed. For sites visited regularly, use bookmarking tools to help prevent minor typos from exposing your kids to potentially inappropriate material.
- Demand that you have access to a young child’s email accounts or any online memberships. Deciding what is age appropriate for this and how much privacy your child should have can be touchy, especially for some teens. However, with mutual respect, you can monitor their activities and protect their safety without causing too much interference in their privacy. Be sure that your kids know that they should absolutely never enter in their full name, their address, their social security number, any photographs or videos, or any other identifying information on any site. Have them use a “screen name” when online to further protect their identity.
- Prohibit the use of chat rooms. These are areas on the Internet are known for attracting predators. Since your child may be vulnerable to believing that a person is who they say they are, it is very possible they could be tricked in a chat room.
- Invest in an Internet security program that tracks your children’s activities online. Review the data regularly to ensure that nothing suspicious is happening.
- Use the filters and blocking tools that are offered by your Internet service provider (ISP) to help block inappropriate content from your children. Many sites have engaging popup ads that will then lead to inappropriate, possibly even pornographic sites. Most ISPs offer filters that will help to block these ads.
No monitoring program will be 100% effective. You are your child’s best defense when it comes to the Internet. Take an active role in monitoring their activities and you can help prevent them from becoming another statistic, yet they can still experience the benefits of learning from online sources.