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5 Things Parents Can Do to Protect Children on the Internet

Friday, February 10th, 2012

The internet is a treasure trove of information that also can also present real risks for kids of all ages. Rather than going to the extremes of banning the use of digital devices (computers, tablets, phones, etc.) in the home, be practical and exercise good judgment. Take some simple steps in order to protect your family online.

The following five suggestions serve as starting points for every family.

Establish guidelines for the use of digital devices. Guidelines will vary according to age but general ones for all ages include limiting screen time, standards for appropriate online behavior, being careful not to share too much information online, and being sure that other caregivers respect and uphold your family’s rules for using devices when looking after your children.

Locate the computer in the hub of your home. Placing the family computer in a high traffic area allows you to keep an eye on what your child is doing. While teens may value their privacy, a computer in a bedroom means not being able to see what programs they are using, who they are talking to, or what information they may be sharing. Having the computer in a central location also encourages more conversations about what is on the screen rather than isolation.

Have a discussion about the meaning of privacy. Whether online or off, some things need to remain private. Since there is a certain sense of anonymity online, it can be difficult for some to comprehend that the internet is a very public place where the tidbits that are shared remain forever. Status updates, tweets, check-ins, blog posts, and photos create a digital footprint that is forever archived online and can’t be taken back. Trusting children also need to know that it is even more important to only share information with those you know and trust since not everyone appearing to be your friend online really is.

Check settings and security on programs to ensure personal privacy and use filtering software. Even with the computer located in a common area of your home, it is impossible to monitor all activity. Filtering software and parental controls can aid in blocking unwanted or inappropriate content while adjusting settings on internet browsers and social networking tools helps ensure that personal information is only shared with trusted networks.

Create an open dialogue. Talk to your children about internet dangers and be willing to learn about the things your kids are doing online and the common lingo. If you don’t know something, ask them! Allowing your child to act as your teacher can be very empowering. It not only helps create a culture of respect, but demonstrates that the adults in their lives are willing to work with them in order to keep them safe both online and in real life.

What do you do to ensure that your kids stay safe while online?

Image of Kids Using Tablet PC via Shutterstock

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