Cyber-bullying and harassment; inadvertent exposure to hardcore pornography or violence; interaction with paedophiles on social networking sites: the internet may seem like a scary place to many parents. Rather than shy away from the brave new world of technology, however, there are a number of things you can do to protect your children online.
In this article, we outline a few simple steps you can take to ensure your kids remain safe on the net.
1. Keep the computer somewhere visible
It’s a good idea to keep your computer somewhere visible, like in a family room, so it’s easier to keep an eye on what your children are doing online. If your child already has a computer in their bedroom, you may want to consider moving it or get into a habit of going into their room regularly to check on them.
Since children are less likely to visit inappropriate sites when they know you could enter the room at any second, you could also tell them to leave their doors open when on the net. As an added precaution, you could also unplug and hide your modem at night, so that your children cannot go on the internet whilst you’re asleep.
2. Communicate the risks to your child and set rules.
Sit down with your child and explain the risks involved with using the internet. Make sure they understand the importance of not divulging personal information (e.g., their full name, passwords, telephone number, address, or the school they go to) online. You don’t want to scare them unduly, just guide them on how to keep safe whist visiting approved sites. You should also set clear rules on the sites they can and cannot visit and make sure that they know why you are restricting their access to certain sites. It’s also a good idea to set time limits on their computer and internet use.
3. Install monitoring software
You can also buy software that allows you to control the websites your child can access online. Such software allows you to block/filter all sites with adult or illegal content. Indeed, you can block any type of material you do not wish your child to see.
However, it’s very important that you still educate your child on the dangers of internet, because children can now access the internet from almost anywhere; at school, their friends house, and mobile phones, and you won’t always be there to filter this information.
4. Check on your child
After your child has finished using the computer, browse the internet history to monitor the sites they visited. If you find that your child has visited prohibited sites or sites that are not suitable for them, sit down with them and explain again the reasons why they must be careful on the internet. Remind them of the dangers online and why you have rules set in place.