Guest Author - Lisa Polovin Pinkus
With each passing year, technology becomes a stronger part of everyday life. Just the other day, my son asked how old I was when I got a cell phone. My answer? 30-something. He was amazed to learn that we did not have cell phones when I was growing up.
Technology is a part of everything today, and – more so – it is a part of everything our children do. It is a parenting error to remain naïve about the dangers of the Internet. It is a necessity for parents to educate themselves and take proper measures to insulate their children against the dangers. Even more important is the responsibility we have to educate our children on the proper ways of navigating the Internet.
Here are some suggestions for creating a safe Internet environment for your children:
Know all passwords Game sites for younger children, like Club Penguin and Webkinz, require a parent’s email address for children to sign up. Keep a record of the sites your children belong to and write down the associated passwords. Being able to login and check on their action on websites can be helpful if you are concerned about the content.
Monitor email When children are young and just beginning to communicate via email with their friends, it is extremely important that you monitor their email. For one, you will find out if they have signed up on websites you have not approved of. Secondly, you can help them learn the etiquette of email and ensure that they are not receiving or sending inappropriate emails..
Keep computers in public areas There are a variety of reasons not to let children have computers in their rooms, but when it comes to Internet safety – having computers in a public area is a helpful way to monitor where your children are surfing. Keeping the screen visible will cause them to think twice about clicking on a button or playing a game they know you will not approve of.
Train your children to be wise when using the Internet It’s hard to believe the Internet can be a dangerous place, and it’s even harder to understand that one click of a button can “poison” your whole computer. Teach children that they should click on “no” whenever a pop-up window appears. Not only might they invite viruses into your computer, but they may end up accepting an invitation to view a site that is not appropriate for them. Help them understand these consequences by providing them with daily life situations. We don’t, for example, give our phone number to the man standing on the corner, and we don’t leave our doors unlocked. Just as there are safety precautions in everyday life, there are safety precautions on the Internet.
Never lie about their age Make sure your children do not lie about their age on the Internet. Sometimes it’s hard waiting until they reach the age when they can join a certain gaming website, but the age restrictions are there for a reason. If they do lie about their age, they will not be able to change that back once they reach the required age. Also, if you permit your children to lie about their ages, then be prepared for the inappropriate content that may come along.
YouTube While YouTube is a great place to share family videos, to search for Star Wars reenactments, or even to use as an educational tool, there are a lot of videos (and comments) posted on YouTube that are inappropriate for children. At the bottom of the YouTube site, there is a section on safety. Children under thirteen are not allowed to create their own YouTube account. If you allow your children to view YouTube videos on your account, make sure you are monitoring what they are watching. You can also block all comments from being shown. The comments are often the most inappropriate part of the YouTube postings. Take a moment to go to the Safety Center and look at the options you have for protecting your children.
Review the web history Make sure you have parental controls set up on your children’s computers to help you keep them safe while online. Set up controls so that you can review their web logs – see where they’ve been online, make sure the games they are playing are appropriate, ensure they are watching videos you approve of, and confirm they are not doing anything you have told them not to do. If communicated properly to your children, they will not feel their privacy is invaded but, rather, will feel the loving protection of their parents while they are online.
Facebook When it comes to Facebook, parents might feel like they have no control, but there are steps you can take to help monitor your child’s Facebook activities. First, require that your children be friends with you on Facebook. This will allow you to see what is being posted on their wall. Next, do not permit your children to be friends with anyone older than he or she is (unless they are family) without your permission. This is the perfect time to start educating your children on what material should be posted on Facebook and what material should be kept private.
If children are unable to abide by your Internet rules, set up consequences such as not using the computer. Some battles we choose not to engage in, but on the Internet – we must insist on setting some limits in order to ensure our children’s safety. A child who grows up learning there are rules for navigating the Internet will develop into a pre-teen and teenager who is wise about the choices he or she makes while online.