Internet Safety For Children

Keeping children safe while they are on the Internet is a concern for every parent. By its very nature most of the Internet is unregulated and is very much still a "Wild West" situation despite laws put in place by most countries. Ultimately it comes down to not only protecting children from accidental exposure to online predators and inappropriate material but also preventing their own curiosity from leading them into dangerous situations.

Depending on how tight you want security for your kids as they learn to use the Internet there are many options including software, hardware, and monitoring devices that can essentially lock down a computer and prevent almost all inappropriate content from ever reaching your child. These are discussed more fully in our videos on cyberbullying and kid safe webpages.

Here we are going to look at some common sense things any parent can do without outside assistance that can avoid many problems associated with inappropriate content that children might run into as well as actions to take when they do.

Internet Safety Tips For Kids

This is a list of 8 lessons that every child should be taught before they log onto the Internet. Although these lessons are aimed primarily at pre-teens they're good to discuss with any child at any age at least once.

  • Do not offer or make available any personal information online. This includes address, telephone number, full name, school name, or any additional information that could be used to identify you.
  • Never post a picture of yourself on a website or send someone else your picture without first discussing it with a parent.
  • Do not give out your usernames or passwords to anyone other than your parents.
  • Do not do anything that would hurt other people on the Internet. This is not only a mean thing to do it might also be against the law.
  • If someone contacts you using the Internet let your parents know. Even in you think you know this person it is important that you have your parents make sure that it is your friend.
  • Do not download or install any software without talking to your parents. Some software on the Internet can be used to hurt your computer or steal information from you.
  • Never agree to get together with someone in real life that you have met on the Internet without talking about it with your parents. Even if you are agreeing to meet with someone that you know in real life, have your parents make sure you know who you're talking to.
  • Although unlikely it is possible that a stranger could be posing as a friend in order to set up a meeting.

Curious Kids

When a child is not actively seeking out objectionable material it is easy to block. Various software suites and kid friendly search engines will keep almost all of this material away. If however the child is actively attempting to access inappropriate material it becomes more difficult. Parents are the front line of defense in this area and ultimately it will be up to the parents to correct this behavior. Software and search engines can help but ultimately a determined child with computer skills can do amazing things.

Many times children seek out inappropriate material out of curiosity alone. They know there's something out there that parents don't want them to see and it is for that reason they feel they must see it.

More often than not, if they succeed in finding the forbidden content, they regret that they did. Most adults now can remember back to being a kid and sneaking into an R-rated horror movie or staying up late to secretly watch something on television that they were not allowed to. They often wish they hadn't seen the movie and were noticeably disturbed and felt unable to speak with their parents about the issue because they broke the rules in the first place.

Now imagine that same situation but instead of sneaking into the movies you logged on to the Internet and accessed the near limitless amount of adult content and graphic violence available today online. It is certainly possible that kids could get some bad ideas from this situation.

Rules For Parents

Here are 7 items for parents to learn to help them not only protect their children online but help prevent them from actively seeking out inappropriate material.

  • Share an e-mail account with your child. This will allow you to monitor their messages and keep up with their activities as well as protect them from unsolicited mails with links to inappropriate material.
  • Keep the computer in a common area of the home. This will allow you to monitor a child's computer activities while in passing.
  • Do not allow your child to enter private chat rooms. These can be blocked using certain software such as net nanny and other Internet safety services, and many Internet service providers offer free filtering software that will block them.
  • If your child reports to you a communication or information that makes them feel uncomfortable immediately record where or with whom this occurred. Report it to your ISP and the authorities immediately.
  • Bookmark your kid's favorite sites. This not only allows easier access but also helps avoid typing mistakes that could lead to inappropriate material. Here is a list of kid friendly sites you might be interested in.
  • Spend time together with your children online to help them become a better Internet citizen themselves. This will help protect them from the dangers of the Internet as well as teach them appropriate behavior when being online themselves.
  • Become a computer literate parent. Become familiar with tools in which you can protect your children from the dangers of online activity.

Online Predators

It is becoming more and more common for children to be targeted by online predators. These people could be cyberbullies from the kid's school, Internet trolls who randomly attack anyone they find online or even sex offenders trying to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. Attacks from these predators have warning signs the parents should be on the lookout for.

If your child seems startled when you enter the room while they are on the computer or suddenly turns the computer off as you walk in find out why. Begin monitoring online activity more closely at this point. Other warning signs include:

  • Unusually long hours online
  • Frequent phone calls from strangers
  • Being uncomfortable when discussing online activity
  • Receiving gifts in the mail from people you don't know

These signs could be a warning that your child has been in contact with an online predator. If you believe that this is the case immediately begin recording any messages your child receives. If it appears that it is possible your child has been targeted by sex offender or has been sent pornography from someone via the Internet contact the FBI or local law enforcement immediately as this could be a very serious situation.

Open discussions about things such as pornography and other material of an explicit or graphic nature can help in this regard. These discussions are never easy but as with most things it is easier to avoid damage than to repair it later. Open communication can also help identify online predators early and prevent potentially disastrous results.

I hope the information in this video gave you some ideas on how to make your child's internet experience a more positive one. If you found this helpful please share it on Facebook and follow us on twitter via the account name below.