it's important to understand basic Internet safety for kids. If you're like most parents, your kids probably spend far more time online than you do. Kids today are growing up with computers and turn to online resources for practically every need. With the instant accessibility of so much sensitive data online, and the vulnerability to bullies, predators and a world full of complete strangers, it's more important than ever to take steps to keep your kids safe online.
Communicate with your kids
The most important thing you can do to keep your kids safe online is to foster good communication with your children. It's easier said than done to get your kids to speak openly to you, but talking with them every day about their online activities is key to eliminating dangerous behavior early. Foster good, open lines of communication with your kids. Give them a safe way to talk to you, even if they fear they've done something wrong. If your children don't feel they can discuss things with you, you're less likely to hear about potentially dangerous behaviors until the consequences are upon you.
Monitor your children's activities
Whether you use parental control software or just check the computer after they've finished for Web sites and chat logs, you must monitor your children's computer use. Set the chat or instant messaging program to record online conversations and read them. Check the history to see what Web sites kids have been visiting. If your kids are adept at covering their online tracks, you may need to invest in parental-control software with logging features or real-time remote monitoring so that you can ensure your children are engaging only in safe activities.
Establish information they're allowed to share
Kids today look to the Internet as the source of all knowledge and a safe, anonymous place, but that just isn't the case. You must establish ground rules about what information they're allowed to share online. Your children should never give out their address, phone number or last name online. If you live in a small town, your kids shouldn't even give out the name of your town. Make sure they don't share information about their school, favorite hangouts or local parks. It's all too easy for a predator to discover a wealth of information about children just by being nice and asking about favorite activities. If you set good ground rules for what they can and cannot share, a predator is less likely to show up unexpectedly at the park or school someday and find your child.
Set rules for computer use
One of the keys for keeping kids safe online is to limit their exposure to the dangers of the Web and to let them know that you're in charge. Set rules for computer use and stick to them. Limit the amount of time your kids spend online or chatting. Don't let them order things online. Restrict their Web site use to prevent exposure to adult content.
Keep kids in view
The simplest way to protect your children online is to keep the Web in a shared part of the house. Computers in bedrooms or behind locked doors are an invitation to risky exploration. If you can keep the computer in a dining room or family room where there's constant traffic, the chance of someone walking by will keep kids in line. Set a rule that there is no Web use when parents are asleep or out of the house as well. Younger kids won't mind being online with the family around, but teens may see this as an invasion of privacy. Remind them that as long as they're at home, you're responsible for everything they do.
Something happened to me yesterday that reminded me of the importance of creating more difficult passwords, and making sure that they are well protected. When I loaded one of my websites, I saw a nasty little note from my web host, stating that my account had been suspended.
As the quality of PC security systems continues to improve, so does the ability of hackers and internet pirates to circumvent the preventative measures that you put into place. The days that saw the personal computer as nothing more than a gaming system and a word processor are behind us.
These tips, plus a contract, can help you better protect your child when he or she is surfing online.