One of the most effective strategies for keeping your child safe on the Internet is to place your computer in the family room or kitchen rather than in the child's bedroom. He'll be less tempted to access inappropriate material if he knows another family member could walk by at any moment.
Unfortunately, they also can be exposed to pornography, violent material, and hate messages. The biggest danger is that kids will communicate unknowingly with child predators who can lure them into dangerous situations. This is not a reason to prevent your children from enjoying the riches the Internet has to offer, but it does mean that you have to arm them with the knowledge of how to protect themselves from harm. It means you have to keep an eye on where your little Web surfer is surfing.
You don't want to act like a spy, but you do want to know how he's spending his time on the Internet. Try this tactic:
It's harder to control your children's Internet use outside the home. Libraries are struggling with how to restrict the Internet sites children can access on library computers while still providing full access for adults. Some are installing filters or requiring parents to provide written permission for children to use library Internet services. Ask about your library's policy and also that of your child's school.
Since kids often are more adept at computer use than their parents, they love to play teacher to the grown-up. Ask your child to show you some of the tricks he's learned about using the Internet. Let him take you on a visit to his favorite chat rooms or Web sites. Check in periodically under the guise of perfecting your own skills.
Online Safety Rules
Teach your kids these safe-surfing rules:
- Don't give out personal information without your parent's permission, including your full name, address, phone number, name of your school, or anything that would reveal your actual identity. Don't provide information about your family or friends, either.
- Don't meet in person someone you met on-line unless your parents agree that it's okay and they or another adult can accompany you.
- Don't respond to messages or comments in chat rooms that make you feel uncomfortable or threatened. If you respond, it just invites more of the same. Instead, tell your parents or a trusted adult.
Set limits on the amount of time your kids may spend online and what areas on the Internet are appropriate for them to enter. Get their agreement to abide by the rules and to ask permission before venturing into other areas.