How Parents Can Reduce the Risks
While children need a certain amount of privacy, they also need parental involvement and supervision in their daily lives. The same general parenting skills that apply to the "real world" also apply while online.
- If you have cause for concern about your children's online activities, talk to them.
- Also seek out the advice and counsel of teachers, librarians, and other Internet and online service users in your area.
- Open communication with your children, utilization of such computer resources, and getting online yourself will help you obtain the full benefits of these systems and alert you to any potential problem that may occur with their use.
- If your child tells you about an upsetting person or thing encountered while online, don't blame your child but help him or her avoid problems in the future. Remember - how you respond will determine whether they confide in you the next time they encounter a problem and how they learn to deal with problems on their own.
While children need a certain amount of privacy, they also need parental involvement.
- Beyond these basics, there are some specific things that you should know about the Internet. For instance, did you know that there are websites and newsgroups that have material that is hateful, is violent, or contains other types of material that parents might consider to be inappropriate for their children? It's possible for children to stumble across this type of material when doing a search using one of the websites that is specifically designed to help people find information on the Internet. Most of these sites (called "search engines") do not, by default, filter out material that might be inappropriate for children, but some offer a child-safe option and some are designed specifically for use by children.
- Also the Internet contains websites, newsgroups, and other areas designed specifically for adults who wish to post, view, or read sexually explicit material including stories, pictures, and videos. Some of this material is posted on websites where there is an attempt to verify the user's age and/or a requirement for users to enter a credit card number on the presumption that children do not have access to credit card numbers. Other areas on the Internet make no such effort to control access. Nevertheless, consider monitoring your credit card bills for such charges.
- Some online services and ISPs allow parents to limit their children's access to certain services and features such as adult-oriented websites and "chat" rooms and bulletin boards. There may be an area set aside just for kids where you don't have to worry about them stumbling onto inappropriate material or getting into an unsupervised chat.
- At the very least, keep track of any files your children download to the computer, consider sharing an email account with your children to oversee their mail, and consider joining your children when they are in private chat areas.
The best way to assure that your children are having positive online experiences is to stay in touch with what they are doing.
- In addition, there are filtering features built into the popular Internet browsers (the software you use to access or telephone number. Click here for a directory of these filtering programs.
Stay in Touch
While technological child-protection tools are worth exploring, they're not a panacea. Regardless of whether you choose to use a filtering program or an Internet rating system, the best way to assure that your children are having positive online experiences is to stay in touch with what they are doing. One way to do this is to spend time with your children while they're online. Have them show you what they do, and ask them to teach you how to use the Internet or online service. You might be surprised at how much you can learn from your kids.