Online activities are an integral part of your children’s lives and they probably spend many of their waking hours surfing the net. Your children use the Internet to study, browse for information, socialize, or play games. These are all constructive activities and there is no doubt that your children can derive tremendous benefits from the Internet.
But that same wonderful environment can very easily become unhealthy and unsafe and even threatening for your children. The increasingly popular social networking sites, instant messaging programs, and chat rooms are just a few potentially dangerous applications that your children probably use regularly. These and others are often misused by sexual predators and cyber bullies who are lurking around the corner, just a few clicks away.
You can’t keep your children off the Internet but you can try to make it a safer place for them, by following a few practical steps that will keep your children safe online.
First of all, discuss the following safe Internet use rules with your children:
- Use caution with your personal information
- Avoid publishing your full name, your school name, home address, email address, mobile or home phone numbers and images, where they are easily accessible by others. Use caution especially with social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace
- Never give out personal details to online friends you do not know offline
- Never post anything you wouldn’t want your parents, teachers, or future employers to see
- Remember that once you post information online, you can’t take it back. Even if you delete the information from a site, older versions exist on other people’s computers
- Do not share other people’s personal information or say things that might violate the safety or rights of others, even if you mean it as a “joke”
- Do not share passwords, user names, account IDs or PINs with anyone besides your parents
- Do not leave mobile phones or other personal electronics (such as a laptop, iPhone, Blackberry, PDA, etc.) unattended
- Remember there are impersonators out there who lie about their real identity. Someone you meet on the Internet may not be the right person to share your problems with, not to mention meeting with them face to face
- Never agree to meet someone you only know online without your parents’ consent
- Never open messages or attachments from someone you don’t know. It could be a virus, or worse – an inappropriate image or film
- Only add people as friends on social networking sites and instant messaging programs if you know then in real life. Set privacy settings so that you have to approve people to be added as a friend
- What you do not do in real life, don’t do on the Internet. This includes all kinds of cyber bulling using text, photos and videos
- Talk to your parents if something feels inappropriate or makes you feel uncomfortable.
In addition to discussing the rules with your children, these are a few proactive steps that you can take:
- Place the computer in an open area in your home – not in your children’s bedroom. But remember that your children have other means of accessing the Internet and communicating with their peers. Pay attention to other computer and Internet-enabled mobile devices.
- Set clear expectations for your children, based on age and maturity
- Is there a limited list of websites your children can visit for their school work?
- Are they allowed to use a search engine?
- Are they allowed to visit social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace?
- Are there sites they are allowed to visit just for fun?
- Write down the rules and place them next to the computer. Your childrens’ teachers should be able to advise you which sites are appropriate for schoolwork and educational fun
- Install parental control (content filtering) software, to help you limit the websites your children visit, monitor their online activity, limit the amount of time your children spend online, block file sharing programs and protect them from offensive content or cyber bullies. Pure Sight does all this and more. Click here to find out how.Don’t forget to inform your children that you have done this. Explain to them that that you are not spying on them – you are keeping them safe!
- Limit and monitor the amount of time your children spend on the Internet, and at what times of day. Too much time online, especially at night, may be a sign of a problem. PureSight can help you do this!
- Learn Internet basics: If you are not computer savvy, enlist the help of those who are. Learn the basics of the Internet so that your children do not become complacent. Look at blogs and social networking sites to see what children are doing. Go ahead and create your own accounts and play around with it a bit. Get on your children’s friends list
- Be approachable: try to keep an open communication channel with your children, so that they trust you and feel free to approach and ask you anything or tell you about things that are bothering them. Talk to your children regularly about their online activities.
- Lead by example. Your children are watching you. Limit your online time and use the Internet and your mobile phone wisely.
If your children are victims of online bullying or aggression, click here to find out what you can do.