There are a lot of things on the internet that are not intended for children and can put them at risk. It is important that your kids know how to properly use the internet so they don’t fall into a situation that could be harmful to them. By discussing with your child some of the different problems that they may face online and how to deal with them, you can help make your child safer while online.
The first thing you should discuss with your children about is what sites you feel are appropriate for them to view or use. These may be different educational sites, game sites, and other kid/family friendly web pages. This lets them know that when they are online and come across something that isn’t similar to those sites they probably shouldn’t be on them or need to ask your permission to use the sites. Something else you can tell them is if a site makes them uncomfortable, they can easily use the back button or exit out of that particular window. You should try to make sure that you can see the sites that your child is visiting. If it is possible, sit with your kids while they are online so you can see what they are seeing. Of course, this may not always be possible, but you can keep the computer they used in a high traffic area in the home so you can easily see what they are on even if you aren’t sitting right next to them. Try to give your kids a user profile with a different username from their own. This will help protect them if someone tries to find out the users identity. There are many different computer and laptop options that let you create separate accounts and set different parental controls for each account.
Stanger Danger should also be practiced virtually as it is in real life. If your children use social media sites, or even messaging services, they should know about stranger danger. There have been many stories about children talking to strangers online who pose as another child, or someone else. In the movie First Kids the President’s son talks to someone back and forth online and reveals a lot of his personal information to someone he met online. He thinks he is safe talking to this person until he agrees to meet with the person he is talking to. While in the movie there is a happy ending, there are many stories in real life that don’t end that way. Teaching your kids to be aware of Stranger Danger even online can save them from many different situations.
There are a few ways to identify is your child is talking to someone dangerous like a sex-offender. One sign is if your child starts to receive packages in the mail from someone you don’t know, or strange phone calls. A lot online offenders will stop at nothing to connect with their target; some online sex offenders have gone as far as sending plane tickets to their victims so they can meet them. If you suspect that this is happening, have an open discussion with your child about your concerns. You can also call your phone company and have the number or anonymous numbers blocked. Another way to tell if your child has come into contact with an online sex offender is if they quickly turn off the screen, close windows or changes the view on the monitor when you or someone else comes by. This means that your child is looking at something, such as porn, or talking to someone they know they shouldn’t. Some ways to make sure that the person your child is talking to is OK, you can ask your kids to introduce you to people they meet online.
One way you can help protect your children while they are online is by setting different parental controls and having the right security software. ShieldGenie is a great way to protect your children online. The software lets you limit your child’s access to sites and online games that you don’t want them to access, alert you if there is suspicious or dangerous activity on an account. It also records all of the activity on the computer so you can easily monitor what sites your kids have been to, who they have been talking to and saying, and what games they may be playing. There are many different types of internet security software, but you can also use the parental controls on your browser and computer to limit and monitor activity. Some internet service providers also let you manage different accounts and activity.
There are other problems that some parents face when they let their kids get online, like cyber-bullying. While we can’t control what someone else says online, whether it’s through social media or direct messaging, having open conversations with your children about bullying and cyber-bullying, you can help try to make sure your child doesn’t bully someone else. If someone is bullying your child, you should encourage them to come to you when someone says something that hurts them or makes them uncomfortable. Depending on your city or state, you can report cyber-bullying to the police and take legal action. Of course, if your child reacted to the bullying and retaliated in their own way, talking to the police can also mean that your child will be punished as well. However, when it comes to bullying, you should not have a wait and see attitude about the situation; take immediate action by talking to your child, your child’s school, and if necessary the police.
There are a lot of things that we need to protect our children from, and that includes things that are online. Try to have open discussions about your kid’s favorite websites, things they shouldn’t see or look up, and what to do if someone they contacts them they don’t know, has inappropriate conversations and actions with them, or if they are being bullied. Be sure to do your research when setting up parental controls and online security software on your computer so you know what is best for your family.
Nicky Elkins is a freelance writer from Pensacola, Florida. She attended the University of West Florida and earned her Graduate degree in Creative Writing. Nicky now uses her gift for writing and her love of all things technology to help others enjoy and understand consumer electronics, social media, and the coolest new gadgets.