By Barbara Pronin
The Internet offers a wonderful new world for children who can read and write – from fine educational materials to a wealth of fun games to a new way of keeping in touch. But access to the online world brings with it new risks to a child’s physical and emotional safety. How can a parent help their kids stay safe?
Primarily, say the editors at Scholastic Magazine, by setting rules, being a good role model, and communicating on a daily basis.
Scholastic staffers offer five tips for providing children and teens with a safer online experience:
Limit usage – Give your child limited free online time to play games, instant-message friends or visit social networking sites – perhaps 30 minutes after school before homework begins. Make it a rule that family time starts with dinner. After that, the computer is an IM-free zone, to be used only for homework purposes.
Keep kids in sight – Have the computer centrally located. Your child is less likely to browse questionable content if she knows Mom or Dad (or brother/sister) might walk by at any second. This helps you monitor the time spent online as well as the sites visited.
Do your homework – Check the browser history to know where your child goes online. Check unknown sites for content. Use security tools and privacy features offered by your Internet service provider or purchased separately for extra protection.
Communicate openly – One out of every five kids gets sexual solicitations online. Strangers, predators, and cyber-bullies also target children. Talk to your kids about the need for not revealing name, age, gender, or hometown online – because if posts aren’t marked as private, personal information is displayed to unrestricted audiences. Be sure your kids understand how important it is to communicate only with people they know.
Set a code of conduct and content – Set strict guidelines about suitable language, content, and behavior online. While it’s important to direct kids to suitable websites, it’s even more valuable to help them think critically about the content they read and see. Surfing the Web without restrictions can bring pop-up ads, viruses, erroneous information, and inappropriate content – and the ease of cutting and pasting means plagiarism can be a real concern when doing homework. Set strict guidelines and follow up to see that they are being followed.