What kids need to know and how to tell them
Begin by talking to your children. Find out which sites they visit and ask what their friends do online. You can also talk about the sites they go to when away from home, perhaps at school, at a friend's or in the public library.
Once you're talking, you can raise any issues and agree your "internet ground rules". Before your child sits down at the computer you can :-
- Set time limits (when and how long)
- Agree the sites that the children can go to without checking with you first
- Ensure that your child knows they can come to you or another adult if they find material that concerns them
It is a good idea to have the computer in a central location so that you can keep an eye on what your child is doing online. If you have an older child who is using a computer in their own room, and you are worried about the sites they may have been visiting, then it can be quite useful to keep an eye on the browser history.
The online world is very like the real world in many respects and not everyone is just what he or she seems to be. You need to make sure that your child does not give out too much information when they are chatting to people they don't know. Your child should never give:-
- Their Home address
- The name of the school that they go to
- Their email address
- A photo of themselves
- Their real name – they should use a nickname/screen name
They should never meet up with anyone they have communicated with online, either in a chat room or through Instant Messaging (IM).
Advise your children to tell you immediately if they get a message from a stranger saying, "Don't tell anyone about what we are doing."
If your child has received a worrying message report it to the site administrator.
Email is a great way for kids to communicate but they do need to know that they should not open emails from strangers or download attachments from people or sites they don't know. You will need to explain that an email or attachment can carry a virus and what that virus could do to the computer.
If your child uses a web cam on your computer be aware that 'real time' abuse of children can happen. Even from a distance children can become victims of predatory or grooming behaviour so keep a watchful eye on who your children are communicating with.
It's important to remind your kids that when they are online they need to behave with the same courtesy they would if they were having a face to face conversation. They should not use abusive language, but if they receive hurtful or vicious comments then they need to tell you or another trusted adult.
There are a lot of tools on the market that will help you to control access to certain sites. Browsers have built in access controls, as do social networking sites. Your ISP provider will have child safety information available and you can purchase extra filtering and blocking software.
Parental controls are very useful and with them you can:-
- Set time limits for your child to be on the computer
- Filter explicit and unsuitable material
- Block outgoing content so that a child cannot send out personal details
If you do use special filtering software remember to keep it up to date as new threats are continually appearing.
For more tips that can help you and your family to use the internet safely go to what's out there to help you.