These days personal computers are found in most homes, and internet access is common. Children frequently use this technology online to play games, complete schoolwork, or communicate with friends. Chat rooms and social networking sites are also very popular, especially with teenagers. Yet every parent knows that there are both images and people on the internet that we would prefer our children not come in contact with. So how do parents protect their children online, especially when we cannot always be there?
First of all, make sure your children are familiar with both the internet and the house rules. Let them know what web sites they are allowed to visit. Take advantage of parental controls, and turn on pop up blockers. Discuss with them how to deal with unwanted contact on the internet, and what is appropriate for discussion online.
Set your child up an email account, and configure the address book with known contacts. Do not allow them to open email or accept instant messages from people they do not know.
Make sure your child knows to never give out personal information on the internet. Any kind of membership account or subscription service should be set up by the parent to ensure that it is a safe and legitimate site.
Children should also be strongly cautioned about anyone they meet online, whether in a chat room or a site such as MySpace. Again, they should never give out personal information, and should not trust anyone they do not know in person.
Parents should also take an active interest in what their children do online. Keep an eye on what web sites they are visiting, who they are talking to, and what they are doing while on the internet. If you cannot be there to see for yourself, check your cache or question them about their activities. Unless you have reason not to trust them, make sure that your questions are not meant to doubt their honesty, but to make sure they are safe. If they feel like you do not trust them, it could backfire on you. Make sure you discuss anything that you are uncomfortable with as well as any concerns they may have.
The internet can be a wonderful tool, but only in the right hands. We have to teach our children how to use it. As parents, we also have to make sure that our children are always safe. As long as we take the appropriate steps and teach our children to be cautious, they should be able to enjoy a safe and rewarding online experience.