Teach Your Kids to be Safe OnlineJennifer Martinez
The Internet is not as dangerous a place for children and teens as we previously thought, according to a recent law enforcement task force report. Real threats remain, however, and we parents need to educate ourselves and our children about online safety and privacy.
Be aware of Internet safety
There are six major areas we parents need to be concerned about:
Amount of overall Internet and computer use
Inappropriate websites -- violence, pornography, hate groups
Internet predators, perhaps posing as children or teens
Online abuse and bullying
Divulging confidential family information or ID numbers
Downloading and installing malicious software
Create a family policy
Your Internet policy will depend on the age of your kids, and the level of individual responsibility you’re willing to grant each of them. The point is to have a policy. Use parental controls to enforce the level of safety you’re comfortable with setting for the family.
Ask each child to suggest a reasonable amount of daily computer usage. Reach agreement on this and then hold them accountable. Renegotiate if necessary -- again, the point is to have an agreed standard, not to expect that the limit will never be exceeded.
Emphasize safety and privacy
Be sure your children understand that talking on the Internet is the same as talking to strangers. Talk to children about the dangers of giving away family secrets -- whether it’s bank account numbers or vacation schedules.
Make sure children understand that anyone they “meet” on the Internet might not be who they claim to be.
Teach children to be wary of free offers or attractive lures
Use parental controls. Install parental controls and kid-appropriate Web browsing and email software at an early age. Let your kids decide when they want to ask for less restricted access, and talk to them about their decision. And remember, controls are not foolproof.
Parental controls are available at different levels
Many Web portals, such as Yahoo! and America Online, offer child- and teen-appropriate portals that block inappropriate content and activities.
Your PC or your wired or wireless router may include a program that lets you monitor all websites visited and the amount of time each family member spent on the Internet.
Third-party solutions, such as your security software programs, sometimes offer add-on packs that enable even greater control and flexibility.
The Internet is no more dangerous -- or safe -- than the real world. You can’t protect your children from everything, but you can guide them toward sensible and responsible Internet behavior.
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