Like many things available to us nowadays, the Internet is a wonderful—but potentially unsafe—place. Working moms can’t always be around when their kids go online. So for a variety of reasons, children should learn about the benefits and pitfalls of the Internet so they're more mindful when exploring it.
Attempting to monitor and control a child’s Internet use is a daunting task. There are many areas of concern: pornography/mature web sites, cyberbullying, privacy, social networks, predators, sexting, gaming, web cams and more.
To make things more manageable, Russ Warner, CEO of ContentWatch, makers of the Net Nanny, shares some areas to focus on so you can help your child’s digital experience to be both safe and rewarding.
Needs Analysis There are many software programs and other tools for online safety. First, determine which issues are of concern for your child. As parents, you have to study and try new technology to accommodate your needs. Use third-party software review web sites, such as TopTenReviews to find unbiased opinions. Gather additional insights from industry leaders. Sprint just launched a mobile security site with some good tips.
Privacy As fun and entertaining as they are, social networks are the most open forums on the Web. Information is easily accessed and shared. On sites like Facebook, teach your child to never give out phone numbers, addresses, birth dates, age, locations or schools attended. Explain to your child why this is important.
Safe Sites There are kid-friendly social networking sites out there. Six of these sites are Disney's Club Penguin, Fantage, Everloop, Moshi Monsters, Your Sphere and Franktown Rocks. These websites give children the same advantages of a social network with none of the safety concerns.
Common Area Have your kids use computers and mobile devices in common areas of your home where others can walk by and view the screen. This behavior serves as a partial monitor and might prevent mischief.
Profile Pics As children are very trusting, you should teach them that profile pictures may not always be accurate. (You can mention that some people post profile pics of celebrities or other people for fun.) And unfortunately, those with bad intentions can pose as a child or of similar age. Also, let kids know they should be careful about what kind of profile pictures they're putting up themselves.
Time Control Studies show that kids spend up to seven hours a day using digital devices. Consider establishing time limits during the day for Internet use. And don't allow kids to go online late at night or when alone.
Parental Controls Many operating systems like Windows 7 have built-in parental controls you can use for video game enforcement and app management. Google provides Safe Search for search filtering and other tools as well. Enable them for extra safety as children play and access the Web. In addition, ask your friends about new apps, software or video games, and such that are age-appropriate for your child.
Online Spending When using apps or online gaming sites, kids may be asked to buy or pay for something. Talk with your child about online spending rules and what to do when asked to purchase something.
Communication Discuss issues openly with your child. Talk about the good and bad of the Internet. Learn about their friends. Answer questions that arise. And, since studies show that children thrive with rules and guidelines, let your children's journey with the Internet begin with set regulations and understanding.