For parents, the Internet is a blessing and a curse. Although it is a great source of parenting information, educational resources and more, it also has a seedy side that kids can access with just the click of a mouse. To keep your kids safe online, follow these guidelines.
Most parents know the local playground inside and out. They've checked out the slide, seen the swings in action and inspected the jungle gym for safety. The Internet is an online playground for kids and teens, and parents should treat it no differently than the real thing. When your child is small, navigate the Internet together to understand his or her online world. It might get boring after you've visited the same Dora the Explorer site for the millionth time, but sticking by your child's side now will give you the opportunity to teach him or her many things about the Internet, including which sites are safe and which ones are strictly off limits. As your child ages, you don't have to always be right there, but you should check in frequently or be in the same room as the computer.
Kids (and adults!) can easily spend hours online, but you get to set the rules for when and how long your children can browse the web. You can also set standards for which sites they may visit. To eliminate confusion, discuss the rules and post a list of safe sites near the computer.
During your discussion, outline the consequences for breaking computer rules and talk about the process your family will use for approving new websites.
Talk About Privacy
Children don't fully comprehend the dangers of sharing private personal info online or the threat of identity theft, but one of your house rules should be to never give away their names, telephone number, passwords, address email address or picture. They should also never give out the name or address of their school and know to never meet anyone they “met” online.
Keep Computer Use Public
Place your family computer in a central location where you can easily monitor your kids' Internet use. If you have additional computers, only hook up ones that can be monitored to your Internet connection.
Use Safe Surfing Options
If you use Internet Explorer, you can filter out sex, violence, nudity and language using the Content Advisor tool. Safari and Netscape offer similar parental controls. Although the results are not guaranteed, this extra measure can give you additional peace of mind while your kids are online.