When it comes to establishing guidelines for Internet safety, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Simply “blocking” or “filtering” specific websites or programs is no longer sufficient to keep children safe online as they conduct research for school projects or just go exploring. With the proper tools and parental guidance, you can help create a safer learning environment while teaching them to exercise caution and good judgment on the Internet.
- Learn About the Internet Together. Explore the Internet together and educate them along the way. Create shortcuts on the computer desktop for “family-approved” educational resources and programs. Encourage your child to avoid or report any content or contact that doesn’t seem right, and work with them to resolve any conflicts or confusion.
- Establish Ground Rules. Children need to learn that what they say and do online can have consequences in real life. Ask them not to install software programs without your permission, and make public chat rooms strictly “off limits.” Encourage them to chat or email on approved sites and only with known friends.
- Use Parental Controls. Take advantage of the newest kid-safe options and parental controls on search engines and social networking sites to ensure their privacy and safety. Also, make sure that only parents have “administrative rights” on home computers.
- Know What They’ve Posted. Search your child’s name online to see if they have profile pages or private information posted online, which might need removing. On Facebook, “friend” your child, so you’re familiar with their interests, interactions and friends.
- Trust But Monitor. It takes less than five minutes to install monitoring software like SpectorPro or eBlaster on home computers and laptops. You’ll know everything they do online – including Facebook and MySpace profiles they visit, pictures they see, and what they’re chatting about – so you can spot potentially harmful situations in time.
- Stay Engaged in the Process. Keep a watchful eye on whether they’re make good decisions or letting curiosity get the better of them. Stay informed of new websites, programs, and Internet “chat lingo” that may be introduced to your child by other kids online. The difference between the chat term “JFI” (Just for Information) and “JDI” (Just Do It) is only one letter apart. As your child becomes savvier on the Internet, it will benefit you and them to keep communicating every step of the way!