The Internet can be a great tool. It’s often where we turn for entertainment, shopping, learning, and keeping up with friends. But, the Internet can also be a scary place for kids. Our children are faced with a whole new set of dangers that older generations never had to deal with the availability of online access such as cyberbullying, online harassment, online predators, inappropriate content and more. One of the keys to keeping kids safe online is to understand the importance of knowing and discussing the dangers of the Internet with your children.
Understanding Online Dangers
Some parents might think that all of these dangers mean they have to ban their children from accessing the internet at all. This is definitely not necessary. There are many advantages to using the internet and the benefits ultimately outweigh the dangers.
The best way to ensure your kids stay safe online is to establish an open dialogue about the dangers and your expectations. It’s critical that kids feel comfortable enough to come to you as the parent if they run into an uncomfortable situation.
While open communication is the most important factor in keeping kids safe online, establishing healthy boundaries is always a good idea. There are many tools that let you control your kids’ access while on the internet. Mainly to avoid adult material and help protect them from Internet predators. Most Internet service providers have built-in parental control options. Also, there is software available that helps restrict access to sites and protects personal information from being sent online.
It’s also recommended that parents keep the computer, or other internet-capable devices such as tablets and smartphones, in a common area in the home where they can monitor its use.
Tactics for Staying Safe
While it’s not wise to restrict access altogether, it is wise to set some ground rules to ensure your children’s safety. Here are a few examples of rules you might want to implement or tailor to use in your own home:
Educate your children to never disclose personal information online such as:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Social Security number
- School name or location
More ways to keep your kids safe online:
- Don’t post pictures on public sites or send pictures online
- Avoid talking to strangers
- Do not agree to meet up with people met online without parental approval and supervision
- Never respond to threatening communication
- Tell a parent or trusted adult about inappropriate conversations
Know the Warning Signs
There are some common warning signs to watch for if you think your child might be being targeted by an online predator. Teens are especially vulnerable. These can include:
- Spending long hours online, particularly late at night
- Phone calls and messages from people you don’t know
- Unexpected gifts arriving in the mail
- Your child turns off the computer when you walk into the room
- Withdrawal from family life and reluctance to discuss online activities
If you suspect your child is being targeted by an online predator, or your child has received or been asked to send child pornography online, you should contact your local law enforcement agency.
Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 if you’re aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online.
The most important thing you can do to keep your kids safe online is to talk to them and make sure they are comfortable talking to you when they run into problems online.