Safety Tips for Parents
You may have heard stories about children and teenagers being exploited online, whether through unwanted overtures by adults or exposure to sexually oriented or violent material. Considering the tens of millions of kids who use the Net daily, the frequency with which these incidents occur is small. Yet they do happen.Online Predators
Sites like MySpace that appeal to teenagers are a magnet for sexual predators who try to befriend them, then arrange to meet. Instant Messaging is another way that adults foster online contact with kids.
While it's true that material of a sexual nature can be readily accessed over the Internet, this kind of content represents only a fraction of the vast collection of information online. The chances of a child accidentally stumbling across inappropriate material are slim, as most sites now clearly post warnings. Before permitting access, many adult-oriented sites require visitors to register and provide a credit card number to verify their age. Unfortunately, a few high profile incidents obscure the fact that cyberspace teems with extraordinary resources for both adults and children--one reason why Internet access is a top priority for schools around the world.Parental Supervision
Just like in the real world however, parents must exercise supervision. Of course this is easier said then done, particularly when children may be more comfortable with computers than their parents. If this sounds like you, don't be intimidated by the technology. After all, you don't have to understand how an internal combustion engine works to drive a car. Obviously if a six-year-old can use a computer, you can too. Many libraries, community centers and colleges offer hands-on training, so take the time to familiarize yourself with the technology. Or ask your kids for help!
To prevent children from becoming victims, consider these guidelines:1.Use common sense.
Don't just get an Internet account and turn them loose.2.Monitor their activity.
Ask them which sites they visit and why. Set up the computer in a common area so you can keep an eye on things. Check the web browser's History file to see which sites they access and how often.
It's up to you to determine when your kids can go online and how much time they spend.4.Use filtering software.
Although not perfect, you can block selected websites. Here are some products to evaluate:5.Ask your kids to agree to these rules:
- Don't give out a credit card number or any other financial information online or via e-mail.
- Don't divulge personal information without your approval. This includes posting photographs on a web page.
- Inform you immediately if they encounter any material that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Never meet anyone they've communicated with online unless you are present or give your consent.
Technology expert Larry Magid has an excellent collection of information about child safety on his SafeKids.com website.
Another information-rich site with practical tips is GetNetWise.
Last update: Jan 7, 2010