The online world can be as dangerous as it is fascinating. It is a bottomless pit of information that can hold a person captive for as long as the computer is switched on. For a child or teenager, it represents a compelling world outside their own insular, protective world provided by their parents and it can seduce, lure and influence.
Unfortunately, predators such as pedophiles lurk in the dark recesses of cyberspace, ready to groom your child and pounce when the time is right and the opportunity presents itself. As a parent, it is your responsibility to know what your sons and daughters are getting up to online. No matter how much you trust them and their judgment, you can never underestimate the power and the draw of the unknown.
Developing an online presence is like dipping a toe in a pool, and the water is always fine. Take proactive steps to ensure your child does not become a victim of online predators or even an addiction to the Internet to the detriment of studies, physical activities and family time.
1. Set the computer up in a communal area
The minute you allow an Internet connection to be installed in your childâ€™s bedroom, youâ€™ve lost control. Non-regulated access means your child can stay up all night, compromising his or her health and school performance. It also means you never know who theyâ€™re talking to and who has access to your child without you knowing.
2. Restrict times
Set down time limits and state the hours of the day when your child is allowed to use the Internet. Implement a password at the start-up screen so that no one can use the Internet or indeed the computer without your consent.
3. Install parental control software
Scout around for the best packages for parental control which allow you to restrict access to certain kinds of sites including those involving gambling, sex, drugs and file sharing.
4. Know the Internet
If you canâ€™t beat them, join them. If your child thinks you know nothing about the Internet, it will be easier for them to tell you untruths. Get up to speed on the online world so that you can make informed decisions and relay them to your child in a language theyâ€™ll understand.
Above all, let your child know that while you do trust them, you donâ€™t trust the strangers with whom they may communicate. Maintain an open communication in the home and frequently ask your child what they are doing online, what they enjoy about it and how you can participate with them.