Who bothers with the mall anymore? That’s so ten minutes ago. The Internet is the new “mall” — as much a kid’s hang out as the malt shop was for the Richie Cunningham and the Fonz. Yet, the internet is so huge and anonymous that it’s easy to forget there are real dangers out there—especially for kids.
To keep your children safe online, follow these tips. Talk about them with your children and then post them on a wall near your computer.
• Keep personal information personal. This applies to kids and to adults. In the hands of the wrong person, personal information about you or your kids is dangerous.
• Limit time in front of the computer. Don’t let them forget about such concepts as “outside” and human “friends.”
• The computer should be in a family room, not in the child’s bedroom. This makes it easier for the parent to keep an eye on what the child is doing on line.
• If necessary, up your computer-savvy quotient so you can talk with and enjoy using the computer with your child.
• Remind your child that they should feel comfortable coming to you with questions. If your child knows they can take tough problems to you for help rather than recriminations, many dangerous situations can be avoided.
• Don’t allow your kids in chat rooms unless they are monitored.
• Get to know any on line friends your child makes just as you would their other friends.
• Warn your children that people aren’t always how they portray themselves on the Internet. Someone may represent that they are a 13-year old boy, but in reality be an adult. Predators use this to gain the trust of kids.
• Discuss these rules with your kids. Ask them to sign off to agree to stick to the rules, and post them on a wall near your computer. Don’t forget to monitor their compliance with the rules.
• Use a hub for your children’s Internet research or a child friendly Internet search tool like the one at yahoo– HTTP://kids.yahoo.com/ Another good option is Microsoft Student Encarta encyclopedia is broad and complete and easy to use. Everything necessary is there, but prescreened links to other websites are included. It’s safe, and it is manageable for children and teens.
• Do not give out your passwords. Don’t store them where they can be found. Choose a password you can easily remember, but not one so obvious that your kids or others can figure it out. Change passwords frequently. People looking over your shoulder may learn your passwords. Don’t use the “remember me” feature on websites.
• Talk to the parents of your children’s friends. Agree on a system for monitoring each child’s on line activities when they are visiting other’s houses. If possible, try to use similar parental controls.
• Don’t court temptation by leaving your credit card or credit card information on the computer. Follow safety rules when using credit cards on line and use only secure lines.