The Internet is an exciting, convenient tool that provides social and educational benefits for users. After moving, your children may go online more often to stay in touch with their friends or make new ones. However, even though you're likely familiar with the safety concerns of the Internet, chances are, they aren't.
"Parents have to get involved," Tim Lordan, staff director of the Internet Education Foundation, told Parenting magazine. "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."
Follow this guide to familiarize yourself with your children's online playground and keep them safe from the dangers of the Internet, and don't forget to check with your cable service provider for recommendations on safety best practices.
Block certain websites
There are many dangerous sites that are meant for adult viewers only. However, your children could still easily stumble upon them, since there's no completely effective way to validate the age of website visitors. As a result, it's up to you to take safety measures to prevent this accident from happening. There are different ways of blocking certain sites, but the easiest way is by accessing the computer control panel and selecting the safety settings. However, children may figure out how to tamper with these settings, in which case you'll need to research an alternative method or purchase software that makes it more difficult to change the rules you set up.
Turn on your browser's safe search
It's also important to keep your children's searches suitable for their age group. Depending on the browser you use, you'll have to locate the search preferences tab within settings and adjust them appropriately. You can usually choose from low, moderate and high filters that provide varying levels of protection for your family. Decide on a level that's best for you and your children, but know that, like the blocked websites, these are somewhat easy to change.
Keep the computer in a shared room
Nowadays, it's almost expected that children who are in high school will have their own laptops. However, younger children should be confined to a shared computer that's located in a spot you can easily keep tabs on. This will help give you transparency into how frequently your kids are accessing the Internet and going on various forms of social media. Not only that, but it will also give you insight into which websites they visit on a daily basis. When it comes to online safety, knowledge is key.
Teach them the importance of privacy
Since they're growing up in the age of information, your children are probably much more trusting of the Internet than they should be. Make sure to teach them the importance of keeping their personal information private. They should never respond to unsolicited messages that ask for their contact or billing information, and caution should be used when clicking on links and attachments - even those that seem to come from friends or family. Let them know about privacy best practices on Facebook and Twitter. No one should announce a vacation online, as it's a surefire way to tell to the world that your home will be empty for the next week or so. Also, just because they connect with their friends doesn't mean they're safe from danger. Settings can be adjusted for individual people, making it possible for one friend to see an entire profile, and another to see only a small portion of it.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association also advised instructing your children to set up privacy settings on every website or app that they sign up for. While there are legal restrictions like the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that prevents data from being collected from children 13 years old and younger, every step should be taken to keep information secure.
Warn them of cyber bullying
Technology allows users to stay connected with their friends, family and classmates at all times. While this is often very convenient, it can also be quite harmful. Cyberbullying is a common form of harassment in children of all ages. The NCTA also recommended explaining to your child that it's important to remain kind and respectful, and always come to you or another trusted adult when he or she sees bullying happening online. It may also be a good idea to become friends with your children on social media so you can see what they're getting into online. Open an account if you don't already have one, and explain to your children that it's necessary for their protection. Don't abuse your power - only step in when you sense a threat to your child's or another child's safety.
Creating guidelines for your children's computer usage will help them stay safe online. It may be a good idea to limit use to an hour or two every day, keeping in mind that some teachers require computers as part of homework assignments. Explaining that certain sites are not to be visited and information is not allowed to be shared on social media are more pieces of information that can protect them from harm. Set rules as you see fit, and you'll be one step closer to keeping your family protected from danger.