As a parent, you want to make sure that your child stays as safe as possible. However, while we are definitely keyed-in to dangers posed by strangers and the environment a child lives in, many parents forget about the Internet. The Internet is an ever-growing part of normal life, and children are investigating at younger and younger ages.
What can you as a parent do to make sure that your child cruises the Internet safely?
Make the Internet PublicIf you have a computer that your children can use, keep it in a public area, like in the kitchen or the family room. Make sure that the screen is turned so that it is partially visible to the room. Not only does this allow you to peek over your child’s shoulder on a regular basis, it also teaches your child that they should not be secretive about the things that they look at. While teens can be allowed some private Internet time, young children should never surf the Internet unattended.
Discuss Internet SafetyMany young children do not understand that being on the Internet is just like being outside of the home. Sit down with your child and speak with them about how strangers on the Internet should be treated like strangers that they meet in real life. Teach them that they should never give out their real name or address to someone on the Internet, and that if anyone says something that makes them uncomfortable for any reason, that they should come talk to you.
Use Your FiltersMany sites have family-safe filters. This allows you to ensure that your child only runs into appropriate materials while they are on the Internet. These family-safe filters can be applied to sites like Google and other search engines, allowing you to protect your child from running into inappropriate images or text. Filters and other types of safe-browsing devices are incredibly handy when it comes to figuring out how you can keep your children safe on the Internet.
Spend Time Online With Your ChildOne way that a child can develop healthy Internet habits is to observe you. Sit with your child and share some of your favorite sites with them. Show them what you do on websites, and make sure that they understand why your surfing may be different from theirs. This is also a good way to teach them the finer points of Internet etiquette; if you allow them to chat on forums, remind them that they should be as polite on the forums as they are in real life!
If you want some friendly, kid-safe sites, check out some of the following:
Check the HistoryFrom time to time, check out the history of the Internet browser on your family computer. This allows you to see what sites have been visited recently. If you see something unfamiliar or inappropriate, speak with your child about it. While you should absolutely let them know what is appropriate and what they should not be looking at, it is important to find out what they were looking for and why.
Share an E-mail AccountWhen your child is young, share an email account with them. A shared e-mail account can help you make sure that you know what is going on in their life, and it also prevents them from communicating with strangers without your oversight.
The Internet is a fantastic resource for many things, and it is essential that your child learn to use it wisely. While it takes some effort, helping your child understand what the Internet is for and how it works can help them use this powerful tool wisely.
Laurie Thacker is a content contributor with two children. A computer-savvy mom, she helps parents find good kids websites, in order to help children learn to use the internet safely.