The Internet can be a wonderful resource for children. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with other children, and play interactive games. Children who are old enough to type in a few letters on the keyboard can literally access the world.
That's why it's important to be aware of what your children see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online.
Just like any safety issue, it's wise to talk with your child about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities. Your child's best online protection is you. By talking to them about potential online dangers and monitoring their computer use, you'll help them surf the Internet safely.
Online Protection Tools
Online tools are available that will let you control your child’s access to adult material and help protect them from Internet predators. No option is going to guarantee that they'll be kept away from 100% of the risks on the Internet. So it's important to be aware of your child’s computer activities and educate them about online risks.
Many Internet service providers (ISPs) provide parent-control options to block certain material from coming into a computer. You can also get software that helps block access to certain sites based on a "bad site" list that your ISP creates. Filtering programs can block sites from coming in and restrict personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity. Also, make sure your kids create a screen name to protect their real identity.
Getting Involved in your child’s Online Activities
Aside from these tools, it's wise to take an active role in protecting your kids from Internet predators and sexually explicit materials online. To do that:
- Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material.
- Keep the computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms, where you can watch and monitor its use.
- Share an email account with your child so you can monitor messages.
- Bookmark your children's favorite sites for easy access.
- Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
- Forbid your child from entering private chat rooms; block them with safety features provided by your Internet service provider or with special filtering software. Be aware that posting messages to chat rooms reveals a user's email address to others.
- Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
- Find out what, if any, online protection is offered by your child's school, after-school center, friends' homes, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
- Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange.
- Forward copies of obscene or threatening messages you or your children recieve to your Internet service provider.
Many sites use "cookies," devices that track specific information about the user, such as name, email address, and shopping preferences. Cookies can be disabled. Ask your Internet service provider for more information.