The Internet is an increasingly important place for children to learn, work and play. But it also presents challenges for parents, teens and younger children, especially considering the anonymity that masks users.
You can help your child avoid online pornography and encounters with predators, hackers and others who would exploit children and their personal information by establishing rules for Internet use, and making sure the rules are enforced.
General tips for parents:
- Learn everything you can about the Internet. Have your children show you the sites they visit, learn chat room lingo and acronyms that chatters use (like POS for Parent Over Shoulder; more examples are included on this page.). Know what other Internet functionality your child may have access to like instant messaging, chat, e-mail and other text messaging. Visit www.cybertipline.com for a quick lesson.
- Establish approved Internet time and territory. Make it clear to children what sites they can and cannot visit, what hours they may use Internet, and with whom they may communicate.
- Keep the computer in a common area of the home, such as a living room or family room, where adults can easily monitor online activity.
- Discuss the importance of telling you or a trusted adult if something ever makes your child or teen feel scared, uncomfortable or confused while online.
- Consider safeguarding options like site blocking, filtering and monitoring. Enter these keywords into any search engine to learn more about software and browser settings that can help you control where children and teens go online. Know how to set parental controls and check the browser’s history files.
- Show your children how to turn off the monitor when something makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.
- Make sure you are aware of any other places your child may be using the Internet, such as a friend’s house or the library.
- Talk to your children about what personal information is and why they should never give it out.
- Check the e-mail your children receive for appropriate content. All too often, e-mail addresses are “harvested” by unscrupulous marketers; the resulting “spam” messages frequently contain adult content.
- NEVER post your child’s e-mail address in any directory.
- Don’t “unsubscribe” on unwanted, un-requested or unsolicited e-mail. Don’t sign up for free offers (remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is!).
- Don’t forward e-mails to everyone in your address book.
- Make sure children only exchange email with people they know and let them use chat areas you supervise.
Tips for children and teens:
Print these requirements and post them near the computer in your home after discussing them with your family:
- Don’t give out your personal information such as name, age, address, telephone number, parent/guardian’s name, and school name/address.
- Do not respond to mean, offensive, threatening, or unwanted email or instant messaging.
- Choose a screen name that doesn’t identify you as a young boy or girl.
- Don’t share your password with anyone (except a parent/guardian)-not even your best friend.
- NEVER agree to meet with someone you don’t know. Remember, people online may or MAY NOT be who they say they are.
- Tell your parents, a teacher or trusted adult if you read or see something online that makes you uncomfortable or if someone threatens you or suggests you meet.