The task of making sure your children stick to strict rules of Internet safety can be a repetitive and thankless one. Kids don’t always know what’s good for them, and can resent the limiting of their curiosity. It has to be made crystal clear to them that there are harmful things on the web, and many things kids just weren’t meant to see. That’s why we’ve put together this little guide on how to keep your kids safe online, with cyber safety tips for parents and kids alike to learn and practice.
- Familiarize Yourself with Their Cyberworld.
“Parents have to get involved. Just as they know every detail of the playground around the corner — the jungle gym, the swings — they need to know their kids’ online playground as well,” says Tim Lordan, staff director of the Internet Education Foundation, a nonprofit group that produces the online safety guide GetNetWise.
It may be hard to keep your eyes open after visiting what seems like the 100th website devoted to Barbie, but being your child’s online safety copilot is the best way to make sure they get a smooth ride. By the time they’re seven, you won’t exactly need to be glued to their side in order to keep your kids safe online, but you should be somewhere in the room or checking in frequently.
- Lay Down the House Rules.
Decide how much time you’re comfortable with your children being online and which sites they may go to. You might post a short list or even a signed contract (like the free ones at www.SafeKids.com) next to the computer. Just so there’s no confusion, talk about your Internet safety rules – and the consequences for breaking them.
“Our house rules say the kids are allowed half an hour of computer time on ‘their days.’ One child has Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other has Tuesdays and Thursdays. Then they get one hour each on the weekend,” says Jamie Smith of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, mother of Hailey, 12, and Kody, 9. “They have certain sites they can visit without special permission. Any others have to be approved by me or my husband.”
- Teach Them to Protect Their Privacy.
While they won’t fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should still make sure you keep your kids safe online by having them understand:
1) Never to give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school, or picture out without your permission;
2) Not to open e-mail from people they don’t know;
3) Not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages, and especially
4) Not to get together with anyone they “meet” online.
More cyber safety tips to follow to keep your kids safe online include:
- Always know the location of your child’s web-surfing device.
It’s of paramount importance to keep whatever computer your child will be using in a location where it’s easy to monitor its use. “We have five computers in our house, but only two – mine and the PC in the family room – are hooked up to the Internet. That way, I can frequently check up on what they’re looking at,” says Cecilia Mitchell, a mother of three in Teaneck, New Jersey.
- Be their trusted Internet expert.
Instruct your child to come straight to you when they see anything that makes them uncomfortable, and assure him or her that you won’t overreact, blame them, or immediately restrict their online privileges.
- Make your ISP your ally.
Before buying a cyber safety product to keep your kids safe online, experts recommend that you work with what you’ve got, starting with your Internet service provider (ISP). America Online, MSN, SBC Yahoo!, EarthLink, and others have reliable, free parental controls that can limit children’s access to websites and communication features (e-mail, instant messaging, chat) that go by age, content categories, time, and other choices.
- Make your browser work double-time.
If your ISP lacks the previously-mentioned capabilities, you still have some safe-surfing options at hand on your browser. Internet Explorer has Content Advisor (under Tools/Internet Options/Content), which filters out language, nudity, sex, and violence on a 0 to 4 scale. Netscape and Safari (for Mac users) have parental filtering controls as well. Using your browser won’t get you the comprehensive results that an online safety product or your ISP would yield, but it can be suitable for those times when you’re sitting next to your little one surfing the net.
- Tune up your search engine.
Your search engine can be pressed into service, helping keep your kids safe online for free. (But be aware: a savvy child could switch the settings back.) Once you set Internet safety restrictions, Google will block sites with explicit sexual material (Preferences/SafeSearch Filtering). AltaVista puts several types of offensive content off-limits with its Family Filter (Settings/Family Filter setup).
- Use software for assistance.
While no technology is fail-safe, it does add another layer of protection. “The key is to make sure you have something that reflects your values and is just technological help, as opposed to trying to take over your role as a parent,” says Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, a nonprofit Internet safety and education organization with several websites.
What the Cyber Safety Experts Are Saying About How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online
‘Start discussing online safety at an early age’
– David Emm, Senior Security Researcher at internet security company Kaspersky Lab
“I think one of the key things is to start the process of discussing online safety with your children at an early age, when they start to do anything that involves the Internet.
They might still be using the computer with you, rather than independently and this offers an opportunity to highlight the fact that the online world parallels the real world and that there are both safe and unsafe things out there. It also enables you to discuss the things that are there to protect us, e.g. Internet security protection, passwords, etc.
As they get older and begin to do things independently, widen the circle. For example, if you let them start an account with Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters, help them create a sensible password and explain why they should use different passwords for each account and the possible consequences of not doing so.”
‘Never, under any circumstances, [let them] browse unaccompanied’
– Dave King, Chief Executive of Online Reputation Management company Digitalis
“The first and most fundamental principle is that my children never, under any circumstances, browse unaccompanied. They both have iPad Mini devices at which they are more adept than most adults I know. But both devices are set to forget the Wi-Fi access code so that they cannot get online without either my wife or I present.
Ditto the computers in the house and the main screen for the computers to which they have access is in our living space (not bedrooms) so that any activity is plain to see.
We talk to the children about the risks because the time will come that they have access outside the safety of our home. We make a point of being open about the concept of inappropriate content and the existence of bad people. In the same way that a generation ago we were told to shout loud when approached by a stranger, we tell the girls to tell us immediately of any approach online.
We talk about trolling as we talk about bullying and we talk about pedophiles in the virtual and real world. Ultimately we want to retain their innocence but where we used to want street-wise kids we now need web-wise children.”
Once Source Imaging Solutions: Cyber Safety Experts with the Right Online Safety Tools
Kids are really perceptive and smart about many things these days. Some of them would even like to think they know more about the Internet than you do. But, that’s where things start to go wrong where kids’ online safety is concerned.
Don’t let your kids steer the Internet safety ship. Let them know from the get-go that you are in control, you own the devices, you make the rules, etc. And, where you need some help laying down the cyber safety laws – we’re here for you.
We can suggest certain tools, control settings, and online safety software to help keep your kids safe online at all times as part of our IT consulting services – so, call us at (800) 875-8843 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!