Without a doubt the internet is a tool that has revolutionized our society and has empowered many of use to not only pursue our dreams but to allow others to be part of it. This unique sharing platform of information, where we often invite others to be part of our world, also presents risks for children.
Every year children are starting to use the Internet and computers at a younger age and every year statistics show that Internet-related crimes against children are on the rise: one in five has been sexually solicited, one in four has encountered unwanted pornography and close to 60% of teens have received an e-mail or instant message from a stranger and half have communicated back.
That same sense of empowerment we get from ‘knowing everything’ with a simple search can be used to protect our children from the online dangers. Be a hawk if necessary, monitor and closely watch for signs of suspicious activities during children’s online activities. By doing this they will be better protected from inappropriate content, cyberbullies, identity thieves and predators.
Here are some other great tips we’ve gathered to help you protect your family from the dangers of the internet:
- Be strong, commit to your rules. The hardest part of supervising your child’s Internet exposure and activity comes after you make the rules. It’s called following through, sticking to the rules. Don’t be lenient when it comes to the rules that protect your children, here are some to start:
— Keep the computer out in the open – this reduces the temptation of doing things that they should not be doing. Lack of privacy will probably keep them from venturing off into online places where they don’t belong.
— Know your child’s online profiles and email passwords – Social networking sites such as Facebook valuable in helping your child interact online with friends. At the same time, they can be breeding grounds for predators. For this reason, you should monitor any profiles or email accounts that your children use. Not only should you be aware that they have them, but you should also request passwords to make sure nothing suspicious takes place, this includes their phones.
— Familiarize yourself with your child’s online contacts – Social networks, instant messaging programs, and more offer ways for your child to meet new people. If they meet someone new that they correspond with regularly, have them introduce you to the person online. Not only will the person know that your child is being monitored, but you will also see who your child is communicating with.
— Make reasonable rules and set time and use limits – You should set guidelines about what your children can and cannot do on the Internet. Try to understand their needs, interest and curiosity. But, you must set limits on when they may use the Internet and for how long.
- Keep your eyes on your web browsers at all times. This might involve sitting directly next to or near your child each and every time he navigates the internet. If you’re unable to be next to them or you want to give them some space, make sure you at least ask what they are looking at once in a while. If they hesitate in responding or are completely distracted by what they are looking at, walk over and check up on them. Most importantly, just go with your gut.
- Teach them to keep private info private. Always insist that your children never reveal their real names (first, last, or imaginary), where they live, where they go to school or hang out or play. The same rule goes for any other personal and confidential information. Repeat this rule often until they say it in their sleep, even if they kick and scream and roll their eyes. While you’re at it, tell them not to share your personal information or their siblings’, either.
- Take advantage of your browser’s parental controls. The majority of Internet browsers (including Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer) have an Internet options folder where you can easily set up security safeguards and content filters for language, nudity, sex, and violence. Or skip the filter fiddling and only allow your kids to use squeaky clean browsers created just for kids.
- Chaperone your child’s every online chat. If you allow your kids to IM chat with online friends, make sure they are their actual, real friends “from real life,” and not strangers, child predators, or identity thieves masquerading as friends. Help kids create personal identity-proof chat room nicknames (and online Club Penguin or other virtual kid world memberships) that don’t contain their real names and other private data. Always keep your eyes glued to their chat activity or don’t let them chat at all until they get to a much older age.
- Install mature content filtering software. There are several options out there but Net Nanny is one of the easiest tools in the category to use at home. Net Nanny automatically wipes out lurking pornographic, violent, or otherwise sketchy online content surprises and offers remote management. With Net Nanny’s remote management tools, one can even see (and alter) what my children see and do online when you’re not home.
- Don’t your kids shop online without you. Children can easily memorize or obtain your debit and credit card numbers, including 3-digit security codes to shop. But it is YOUR responsibility to LOG OFF after you shop. If you fail to log-off children can easily or even accidently buy or bid for an item. If you do let them buy something online, enter your financial data yourself.
- Know your online game ratings. Only let your children play age-appropriate games on gaming web sites that list ratings for every game, or limit your kids to MiniClip’s E for Everyone selection.
- Go beyond the Internet. Now that you’ve got your young ones’ internet use under control, why not make their offline video game habits as safe? Start by setting up parental controls on their Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, or whichever handheld or console gaming system they can’t get enough of.
Remember, you are the adult, you set and enforce the rules and manage your home. You have the power to protect them and do it the best you can.