The internet has so much to offer kids — easy research for school projects, access to email, and entertainment. Unfortunately, there are dangers, too. Not all people that your child may interact with online will have their best interests in mind — in fact, some are lurking online for the sole purpose of luring children into dangerous situations.
Although there is no way to completely protect your kids from inappropriate content or people with bad intentions, there are some things that you can do to reduce the risk. For starters, set up your computer in a common area, rather than in your children’s bedroom. Keeping everything out in the open will make it easier for you to supervise your children’s computer usage, minimizing the risks that they will be engaging in unsafe online behaviours.
Make Sure that They Understand
Kids are very trusting by nature, and this innocent attitude is exactly what makes them susceptible to online predators. Be sure that your children understand that people are not always what they seem to be, especially online. Explain to them that since they have never met these people, they cannot be sure that they are who they claim to be. Someone in a chat room who described themselves as a 14 year old girl may, in fact, be a 35 year old man. It’s unfortunate that we have to instil a sense of distrust in our kids, but in order for them to be safe, they must be aware.
It’s a good idea to have a few rules in place when it comes to kids and computer use. Let your kids know that if they don’t comply with your guidelines, you will take away their computer privileges for a set period of time. Internet safety is an important issue and it is vital that your children obey a few basic rules. They need to agree to:
- Never disclose personal information such as address, telephone number, or the name of their school.
- Tell parents immediately if they come across anything online that makes them uncomfortable.
- Never send anyone a photo of themselves and if someone requests one, kids should inform their parents.
- Never respond to messages that are mean natured.
- Always keep their password private. The only people who should have children’s online passwords are their parents.
- Never agree to meet someone in person that they have communicated with online. If parents agree to let a child meet with an online friend, it should be in a public place with parents present.
- Do not click on links that come in unsolicited email.
- Never download software or programs without a parent’s permission.
It’s a good idea to establish set hours that children are allowed to be on the computer, preferably at times when there is adult supervision available. Additionally, make kids aware that certain types of websites are off limits. Some internet providers offer options to filter content so that kids can access only parent-approved websites. For young children, especially, this can be a valuable tool in keeping them safe. Check out the BBC’s Webwise Section for more ways to keep your children safe online.