When we were growing up there was no internet. If your parents didn’t want you to know or see something it was a lot easier to keep it from you. However, in today’s fast paced always connected world it is almost impossible to shield your child from the mountain of inappropriate content and potential predators. Consumer Reports revealed that there were 7.5 million kids younger than 13 using Facebook, including more than five million 10 and under. In every case these kids had to lie to get around Facebook’s rule that you must be 13 or older to join. 95% of the parents whose 10-year-old was on Facebook knew about it.
So what is a parent to do? You can take actions to monitor and control internet use at home. There are many programs available to block certain websites on your home computer or child’s laptop. These work either by blocking all sites except for ones you have allowed or by blocking what it considers to be a suspect site. You might want to check your existing anti-virus software as well. Some, such as Norton, include parental controls. Keeping the computer in a common area where you can monitor and control your kids access is imperative. Use and enforce time limits. Make sure you have all the passwords to any email or social networking sites being used. Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet by storing names of sites and/or snapshots of material seen by your child on the computer for you to view later. Configure your search engine (e.g. Google) to limit results to content appropriate for kids… However, most of these controls have one major limitation: they only work in the home!
While a large amount of your child’s internet use may be at home there is still a lot of access and exposure to the world wide web outside of the house as well. Kids are resourceful and inquisitive, they can use a friend’s computer when they go over for a play date, they can get a hold of a smart phone, or maybe you already got them one for their last birthday, there’s internet café’s and free Wi-Fi, etc.. That is why the two most important things you can do as a concerned adult is 1) educate yourself about the internet, its benefits and its potential dangers 2) educate your child about the potential dangers and benefits and how they can protect themselves.
Some benefits include: Access to rich educational and cultural resources (text, sounds, pictures, and video), obtain up-to-the-minute information, stay informed by accessing your community and school Web sites, Play fun and educational games…
Some Dangers include: Easy-to-find sexually explicit images and text, sites promoting hatred, bigotry, violence, drugs, cults, and other things not appropriate for children. Inaccurate, misleading, and untrue information. No restrictions on marketing products such as alcohol and tobacco to children. Marketing that deceptively collects personal information from kids in order to sell products to them or their parents. Requests for personal information for contests, surveys, etc., that are used in unauthorized ways. Easy access to games with excessive violence and gender stereotypes. Ability to communicate with predators or impersonators. Cyber-bullying…
Regularly spend time online with your child to learn about his or her interests and activities. Teach your child to end any experience online when he or she feels uncomfortable or scared by pressing the back key, logging off, and telling a trusted adult as soon as possible. Give lots of examples of inappropriate internet situations so they know how to recognize a bad situation. For example, instruct your child never to give any personal information like their true name, age, address, school they attend, etc to anyone. And if someone is asking for any of that information tell an adult right away.
Facebook Safety Tips for Parents
Google Safety Tips
Common Sense Media is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to helping families make the best media choices for their kids.
GetNetWise is a public service brought to you by a wide range of Internet industry corporations and public interest organizations. The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be only “one click away” from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their and their family’s use of the Internet.
New Family News is a nonprofit public service providing weekly “kid-tech news” for parents and educators in more than 50 countries. This site is based on the premise that informed, engaged parenting and teaching are essential to kids’ constructive use of technology and the Net.
The NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational safety resource that teaches kids and teens how to stay safer on the Internet. Parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement also have access to additional resources for learning and teaching about the dangers children may face online.
Wired Kids, Inc. is dedicated to protecting all Internet users, especially children, from cybercrime and abuse. It operates several programs and Web sites designed to help everyone learn how to protect their privacy and security online and to teach responsible Internet use. Wired Kids is best known for its expertise in child, teen, and parent Internet safety programs.
Blocking and Monitoring Tools
K9 Web Protection blocks a wide range of objectionable websites (including those with racism and gambling) and also sets time restrictions on Internet usage.
ChatShield is specifically for Internet messaging. The program checks the identities of people chatting with your children and blocks unidentifiable contacts.
Parental Control Bar is a toolbar that you can download. It blocks access to adult-oriented websites.
NetNanny is one of the most popular paid options out there. It is easy to use and effective, according to reviews. For $40 a year you get a detailed report of what your kids are doing, along with the standard blocking and filtering. However, it comes with just one licence — if you want it for more than one computer, it will cost another $20 per machine.
Beware: Kids are smart. There is this handy-dandy webpage out there that tells them how to get around parental control software. You may want to keep that link to yourself. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Around-Parental-Controls-on-the-Internet