Safer Internet use is all about parental involvement: setting guidelines and being involved and guiding your child in the online world the same way you do in their everyday lives.
You need to be involved in their Internet use. At the same time, you need to respect their privacy. Their email, texts and instant messages are private.
- Educate yourself about the Internet. It's important to be knowledgeable about the Internet, because even if you don't have a computer at home, your child can access it at school, at a friend's house, or at your public library.
- Create a family agreement for Internet use, including hours of use, which sites can be accessed and which ones shouldn't be.
- Place your computer in a central, open location, like the living room, so Internet use can be supervised. A computer (iPad, tablet, phone or whatever) in the bedroom at night is a bad idea. They may spend hours online instead of sleeping.
- Look at the sites your child/teen visits. Have them show you their favorites and discuss why they chose those sites.
- Set up your computer to block offensive sites, words, and topics and consider installing a children's search engine.
- With your child, create a special folder of bookmarks or favorites for your child on your family's computer.
While the Internet is wonderful at keeping us connected in ways never dreamed of and offering information at the click of a mouse, maintaining family privacy takes some thought and planning.
- Teach your children never to give out identifying information about any family member. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, where they work, dates of birth, email addresses, passwords or credit card numbers.
- Encourage your child to tell you if anyone is asking for personal information.
- Teach your child that talking to a stranger on the Internet is no different than talking to a stranger on the street.
- When they hear about a story or situation that sounds unreal, have them check it out on Urban Myths. They will soon become proficient at discovering hoaxes and love to tell you about it.
MINIMIZING POSSIBLE RISKS
- Talk to your children about potential online dangers such as giving out personal information to strangers. Chat room acquaintances are strangers, and your child should never arrange to meet them in the real world unless you give permission.
- Better yet, if your children are young, steer them away from chat rooms. Older childen should only participate in chat rooms of which you approve.
- If your child starts receiving phone calls from strangers or places calls to people you don't know, get to the bottom of it immediately.
- Tell your children that if someone harasses them online, says something inappropriate, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way they should tell you, their teacher or another trusted adult.
- Contact the police immediately if your child receives child pornography, has been sexually solicited or has received sexually explicit images from an adult.
- While it's important to be careful, remember the Internet is also fun, exciting and educational.
Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker, broadcaster, columnist and author of Who's In Charge Anyway? and But Nobody Told Me I'd Ever Have to Leave Home. For information or to book Kathy for a speaking engagement, go to her website at www.ParentingToday.ca.