Internet Safety: Making Sure Your Kids Surf Safely
Like everything else, the Internet has its good and bad points. While the classroom emphasis is still largely predicated on old-fashioned textbooks, Internet resources and research capabilities are making it more important than ever before for parents to teach their children computer literacy and internet safety early. The downside of this literacy is that there’s always the risk your children may wind up seeing something you don’t want them to see. Curiosity is healthy, but the openness of the internet means children may be exposed even inadvertently to inappropriate content. Here are some tips and tactics you can use to make sure your kids have a safe and educational online experience.
5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe While Surfing the Internet
- Watch where your kids go. You wouldn't let your children go to a friend’s house to play without meeting their parents and knowing who’s going to be there, so why would you let your child surf on the Web without knowing exactly where they go and what they do while they’re there? Monitoring the Internet history (and erasing it if you've been looking at things your kids don’t need to see) is a fast way to keep your kids off unfriendly sites, but this has the drawback as once it shows up in the history, the damage is done. It’s far better if you can actually be present while your children are on the Internet, so you can guide them and keep them on kid-appropriate sites.
- Get a cyber-nanny. Yes, these really do exist. There is actually a site called cybernanny.org that is designed to prevent children from viewing sites over a certain rating or that don’t have proper security certificates. While sites like these are great once you get them set up, they have to be “trained” as to which sites you deem appropriate for children. Otherwise, you’re as likely to find sites that your kids can and should have access to, such as the school website, blocked just as quickly as sites that are designated for adults only. While this takes some extra work on the front end, it can save you a lot of time and headaches on the back end.
- Set the clock. Many browsers and sites have child monitoring software that allows you to set predetermined access times for your children. This is great if you want to prevent your kids from going online before or after a certain time, such as allowing them Internet access from four to six in the afternoon and only after eleven a.m. on Saturday. Some of these programs even have customized messages you can arrange for your children, such as “Go out and play!” or “Your room better be clean when I get home!” Like the cybernanny programs, these programs require some front-end work on your part, but it’s an extra layer of protection that will help you feel more secure about your child’s browsing habits.
- Have a talk with your kids. Nothing makes an impression quite like sitting down and explaining to your kids the ins and outs of safe Internet surfing. Many children, especially older ones, may feel like the extra steps you take to protect them from the unsavory elements of the Internet equate to not trusting them. Explaining the dangers and the reasons for the precautions you take should always be predicated on what’s out there, not whether your children are or aren’t responsible or trustworthy. If you treat this conversation the same way you would treat telling your kids about stranger danger, sex, or smoking, your kids are more likely to understand and appreciate the fact that you really do care about their safety and well-being.
- Choose kid-friendly email and social media sites. Facebook and G+ are great for grownups, because they can find things quickly and easily while staying in touch with their friends and family. However, even well-meaning adults can tell tasteless or ribald jokes, post suggestive pictures, and even engage in cyber-bullying. There are child-safe email and social media sites available that offer games, email, and chat specifically geared to the younger set. These are great for allowing your child to get email from school friends, teachers, and family, and many of these sites also offer built-in online time monitoring and email screening to prevent kids from getting spam or harmful emails. The best part of many of these reports is that you can set them to route automatically to your work email, and some are even beginning to offer SMS updates.
Keeping your children safe, even in your own home, is tougher than ever thanks to the Internet. Just because there are some bad or thoughtless people out there, doesn't mean your kids can’t have a safe and educational online experience. Just remember that alert, engaged parents are the first and last line of defense between children and the dangers of the Internet, and that you have tools available to help your kids grow up safe, surf-smart, and Web-savvy!
How do you keep your kids safe on the computer?
‘Supplied by Joe Shervell for http://www.conosco.com/’
Picture courtesy of Flickr