Cybersafety for Kids Online
The internet has opened up a world of information for anyone with a computer and a connection! Your children will learn about computers. But just as you wouldn't send children near a busy road without some safety rules, you shouldn't send them on to the information superhighway without rules of the road. Too many hangers from pedophiles to con artists can reach children (and adults) through the internet. Direct supervision and involvement is the most effective means of addressing the problems presented to children using the internet.
- Explain that although a person may be alone in a room using the computer, once logged on to the internet, he or she is no longer alone. People skilled in using the internet can find out who you are and where you are. They can even tap into information on your computer.
- Set aside time to explore the internet together. If your child has some computer experience, let him or her take the lead. Visit areas of the web that have special interest to children.
- The best tool a child has for screening material found on the Internet is his or her brain. Teach child about exploitation, pornography, hate literature, excessive violence and other issues that concern you, so they know how to respond when they see this material.
- Choose a commercial online service that offers parental control features. These features can block content that is not clearly marked as appropriate for children; chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and discussion groups; or access to the Internet entirely.
- Purchase blocking software and design your own safety system. Different packages can black sites by name, search for unacceptable words and black access to sites containing those words, block entire categories of material, and prevent children from giving out personal information.
- Monitor your children when they’re online and monitor the time they spend online. If a child becomes uneasy or defensive when you walk into the room or when you linger, this could be a sign that he or she is up to something unusual or even forbidden.
- For various online protection products visit CyberPatrol.com. CyberPatrol offers parental control software and Internet filtering products for families.
How to Talk to Your Children
- It is important for you to consider a variety of factors when talking to your children about Internet safety. Your child’s age, maturity and gender will guide how you talk to your children, the information you share with them and the rules you set.
- Sit your child down and have a focused conversation with them about how they can use the Internet for good things and also about how the Internet can be a dangerous place.
- Talk about the tough and sometimes uncomfortable issues with them.
- Set very clear rules and boundaries regarding Internet and computer use both inside and outside of the home.
What You Can Do in the Community
- Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.
- Know your children’s friends and their parents. If your child’s friend has Internet access at home, talk to the parent about the rules they have established. Find out if the children are monitored while they are online.
- Make sure that your child’s school has an Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). This policy should include a list of acceptable and unacceptable activities or resources, information on “netiquette” (etiquette on the Internet), consequences for violations and a place for you and your child to sign. Your family can design its own AUP for the home computer.
- If your child receives threatening e-mails or pornographic material, save the offensive material and contact that user’s Internet Service Provider and your local law enforcement agency.
- If you come across sites that are inappropriate for children when you are surfing the Net, send the addresses to online services that offer parental control features or to sites advertising protection software to add to their list to be reviewed for inclusion or exclusion. Even if you don’t subscribe to the service or own the protection software, you can help protect other children.