If your child is surfing the internet, you should be constantly by his side or at least carefully watching what he is doing.
While the internet offers a lot of goods (educational materials, fun games and connections with people around the world), it can also pose a risk to your child's physical safety and emotional well-being.
Rules of Protection
These basic rules apply to keeping children safe online:
- Set limits: Allow your child to spend free time online (ie 30 minutes right after school) chatting with friends, playing games or visiting social networking sites, but the rule of thumb is that family time starts with dinner. After that, the computer is used for work at home and you do not use it for gaming or chatting.
- Continuous Control: Place the computer in a central part of the house. Your child is less likely to browse suspicious content if he or she knows that mom or dad (or brother or sister) can look at the computer at any time while surfing. This helps you keep track of the time he spends online, his selected activities as well as his consequent behavior.
- Content search: Check his browser history to find out what your child sees online and check the sites they visit regularly. Use security tools and privacy features, either from your browser or your ISP, or purchase a parental control program separately for extra protection.
Use this overview to understand what your kids love to do online and what risks come with it.
- Contact and Social Networks Media: Internet communication consists mainly of emails, instant messaging (IM), chat rooms and magazines or web logs (blogs). On networking sites like Facebook, children (often, they must be 13 years old or older) can create profiles and then invite others to see and befriend them online. Your child can use these tools to share gossip, share photos, spend a lot of time, learn about work solutions, connect with common interests with other people and express opinions.
- Public posts: One in five children receives sexual suggestions online. Strangers, pedophiles and cyberbullying targeting children simplify their work when their children's names and photos reveal their age, gender or homeland.
What do we have to do:
- To know what our child says: Check his friends list if he really knows everyone or are they just online friends ?. Remove from the list anyone who does not know you personally.
- Tell him not to exchange personal information: Like a phone number, address, best friend name or a picture. No party invitation, revealing details or personal meeting, ever.
- Surfing: Kids can explore new interests, check if a book is available in an online library, or find a recipe for their classroom party at valuable resources such as online encyclopedias, newspapers and magazines.
- What you need to know: Unrestricted internet browsing can mean the appearance of pop-up ads, viruses, misinformation and inappropriate content. Ease of cutting and pasting means that plagiarism is a real concern. Kids can click from one site to another until they go to bed (or after) if you let them.
- Set a code of conduct as well as time limits: Keeping children safe means setting guidelines for proper conversation, content and behavior. While it is important that you direct your child to appropriate sites, it is even more helpful to help them recognize the rewards from these sites so that they can surf on their own safely.
- Critical perception: Help your child judge the content he or she reads and sees. Encourage him to check facts in multiple sources before including them in a school report or assignment. Try to distinguish between user-generated content and trusted institutions.