Technology and social networking websites are expanding at a rapid pace, and kids of this generation are trading in neighborhood baseball games for neighborhood chat room sessions. As parents, it’s important that we keep up with our kids online and keep them safe in this ever connected world. If your child is asking to join the digital age or if they’re already participating, try these tips and keep your children safe online – without having to constantly read over their shoulders:
1. Talk to your child – Get involved! Communicating with your child about the dangers that can occur online through instant messaging, e-mails, etcetera, is a conversation every parent should have with their child. Often times, kids do not realize the dangers that come with online use. Spending time with your child online and having them teach you about their favorite online destinations is a good way to open a conversation about Internet safety.
2. Utilize parental controls – These tools are provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. Most wireless and home routers can be configured to block websites within the router’s configuration settings. This can be used to restrict your child from going to websites based on the keywords you add. These controls even provide restrictions that allow you to limit your child’s web time. If you are unsure how to set this up, contact your router’s support center and have them walk you through the process.
3. Get virus protection – Having good up-to-date anti-virus software loaded onto your home computers and running regular scans is absolutely essential. Viruses can be very destructive to your PC, sometimes deleting all of your hard drive files. There are also viruses (malware) that can collect personal information, such as your passwords or other information typed into your computer. Your computer could even be turned into a zombie computer, allowing a hacker to secretly infiltrate your computer and use it to conduct illegal activities.
4. Monitor your child’s access – There are software programs available that can send parents real-time reports on all online use, such as instant messages, websites visited and MySpace activity. Although this may seem untrusting, kids can be tricked into potentially dangerous situations and monitoring access protects kids from predators. Parents are only looking out for the good of their children and should be able to act quickly if there is suspicious behavior in chat rooms or e-mails.
5. Check the computer regularly – Don’t let the software do all the work. Things can slip through the cracks. Review what is on your child’s computer. If you don’t know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative or other knowledgeable person. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign.
6. Keep the computer visible – Positioning the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom, is a great way to keep an eye on what’s being done online. It is much safer to have the screen visible to a parent or another member of the household when the child is using the computer. Also, your child will be less likely to visit websites they shouldn’t go to if they know you could walk in at any moment.
7. Have access to all of your child’s online accounts – Always maintain access to your child’s online accounts and randomly check his or her e-mail. Instruct them not to give out personal information, such as last name, address or even city. Be up front with your child about your access and the reasons why it is important.
G.L. Sheerin is an IT professional with more than 10 years experience in network design and security. Sheerin is the author of Virus Games and weaves computer technology into his kid-friendly story. He is currently working on the third book in this three-part children’s series and resides in Florida with his wife and son.
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