New innovations in technology and the Internet are a great opportunity for children to expand their knowledge. It’s easy and practical to use, children can do research, write reports and learn new things. Any child who can type words on a keyboard can explore any personal interest they have and have a world of education at their fingertips. On the other hand, availability of information can be potentially harmful and dangerous. As with any other segment of your child’s life, it is important for you as a parent to stay involved in your child’s activities, interests and behavior while they are online.
There are numerous laws, online software (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/) and services (http://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/tips/ST05-001.html) that can help you follow and control the information your child can browse. But when it comes to successful Internet safety for children, the most important factor is active involvement of a parent in protecting a child against Internet predators, explicit material, exposing too much personal information, cyber-bullying or information inappropriate for a child’s age.
Internet safety and basic prevention and protection from inappropriate content your child may encounter on the Internet begins with your own computer literacy. Take time to learn what tools and services are available to help you block or filter undesired content and prevent revealing personal information. Learn how to use technology as an advantage in a parent-controlled approach to Internet safety. Also, set a good example on proper Internet behavior and introduce your child to the Internet by spending time together online. Keeping the computer in common areas (with less privacy, i.e. living room), is a good way to ensure your ability to monitor your child’s online activities. Advise your child on some basic rules of Internet safety: establish times the Internet is available to your child and make sure that boundary is respected, ask your children to show you what they like to do online and their favorite sites, advise them never to disclose personal information, never send personal photos over the Internet, to stay away from chat rooms and to tell you about threatening messages or any conversation that made them feel uncomfortable or scared.
If you notice warning signs that may indicate your child is targeted by an online predator (i.e. messages or calls from unknown people, spending long times alone online especially at night, secrecy about online behaviors, sudden shutdown of the computer or phone when a parent enters the room) you need to take them seriously. Take action and find out what is going on. For more information about protection against online predators, please visit FBI’s parent guide against online children exploitation (http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide).