Kids today are technologically savvy. Preschoolers play games online. High school kids have their own web pages and blogs (online diaries). The Internet can be educational, fun and an important social tool for kids of all ages. Unfortunately, what comes with it is the possibility of danger. How can we as parents, who are many times technologically challenged, protect our kids from dangers online?
The first step is to have open communication with your kids. Talk to them upfront about what can happen if you’re not careful online, but be careful to not scare them inappropriately. Discuss with them and determine how long, when and where they can use the Internet. The library? A friend’s house? Only at home? They should also know where they are allowed to go online. Forbid social networking sites? Ban pornographic sites? Many child blockers are available to help keep porn sites from being accessed and other ones inappropriate adult material, but nothing is foolproof.
Secondly, you must set the ground rules for appropriate Internet usage. List your rules and post them for easy viewing. If you have a hard time coming up with your own, there are many helpful websites including Safekids.com, which actually helps parents find the right rules for their home.
Here is an example of a basic set of rules that should always be followed:
- Never give out personal information (name, school, address, phone number, etc.)
- Tell your parents if anything uncomfortable arises while online
- Never make plans to meet someone without parental permission
- Never give your my picture or password
- Never reply to mean remarks (always tell your parents about them)
- Never download anything without permission
- Obey all laws and refrain from being mean
Be sure to keep track of where they have been by checking the history in the tools area. You can also buy programs which track where your child has been, so that you can make sure that they are following the guidelines you’ve established. The best bet is to have open communication and talk about what they are doing online, instead of having to spy on them.
Offline Parent Versus Online Predator