Allowing children to spend time on the Internet can be a huge stress, wondering who they are talking to or what websites they are visiting. Parents just want them to be safe but have a hard time knowing how to monitor or teach them safe surfing habits. With the proper guidance and knowledge, they will be able to navigate safely and avoid any potential dangers.
This is something that children are taught at an early age. Don’t go anywhere or talk to strangers. This is true also for the Internet. Reinforce the idea of not going anywhere where they might talk to strangers on the internet and not friending anyone they don’t know on social media sites. And if they find themselves somewhere where they feel uncomfortable or scared, tell them to get you or another adult right away.
Learning by doing is great way to introduce a child to the Internet. By sitting down with them and visiting some safe sites, you can point out any potential dangers and show your child the best places to go. And with you by their side, they can feel free to ask any questions they may have. Not only is this a great chance to teach them about the Internet, but you also get to spend some time together.
As with spending time outside or going to a friend’s house, have your child request permission to use the Internet. This way you know when they get on and for how long they have been on. This will also help prevent any sessions online that you may not be aware of. If they request time on the Internet, make sure they have a reason or purpose to do so, like playing a game on a specific website, visiting their favorite social media site, or doing research for homework. Again, this will ensure that you know where and how they are spending their time.
Give them a pre-determined time limit – Scholastic suggest a half an hour or free computer time after school. That’s a good time to take a break from their books before they start on homework assignments. Once their time limit is up, have them go outside to play or have them read. This will minimize the chance of them getting caught in anything dangerous as well as making sure that they aren’t spending all day on the computer. You can even set up a schedule of when your child is allowed on the Internet. Of course, make sure that they let you know before they log on so that you can monitor the time.
During your trial runs with your child, let them know which sites are all right to use and which ones aren’t. You can even write up a list of the sites that are allowed and post them near the computer. If your child wants to go to a website that is not on the list, they will need permission from a parent to go to the requested site.
Once your child has ended their session, at some point that day, go through their browsing history to make sure that they haven’t gone anywhere they shouldn’t have. If your child has told you when and where they were going, this will make it easy. If they do end up going somewhere they shouldn’t, you can then address it with your child. Knowing that their actions are being watched will help curb any missteps to undesired sites.
Many hackers and viruses use pop-ups, links or emails that look legitimate to encourage the internet surfer to click. First, ensure that you have up-to-date virus protection on your computer. When showing your child how to navigate the Internet, teach your child about the dangers of these links and emails. If your child happens to have their own email address, show them what spam emails look like and how to avoid clicking on any links or sharing of any personal information.
Make sure to stress the importance of not sharing any passwords with friends or with anyone on the Internet. Let them know what the consequences may be for sharing that kind of information and how it will affect not only them but those around them.
When you are sitting with your child during their first few sessions on the Internet, train them in the habit of logging out of websites. This will keep from anyone, even friends, from posting on their social media sites or using their email.
As your child is learning how to use the Internet, set up some parental controls and blocks for certain sites. This will help prevent your child from stumbling on an unapproved site. One of these can be changing the settings on your most used search engine. You can set up a SafeSearch filtering restriction, which will filter out any unsafe or explicit material.
This may seem outdated as many people have access to the Internet on phones, tablets, and laptops, but having a desktop computer in a central location is important according to Child Rescue Network. Keeping the Internet activities limited to a computer in a visible location will not only help you keep an eye on what your child is doing but also help keep the child honest.
If your child is on a social media website, it can be hard to track what they are doing. When they set up their account, go over some of the privacy features with them, and set their profile to be only viewed and searchable by friends. Remind them to only friend people that they know in person and to never give out any personal information to people they don’t know or anywhere public on their page. Online predators can take this information and manipulate their way into your child’s trust – if they know all these details about your child, why wouldn’t your child think this new “friend” was real? This is how online stalkers and predators get kids to come meet them in person. Prevent this from ever happening by being super vigilant with the online visibility of your child’s information. If you can, have them add you as a friend, and set up notifications so that you are notified when they post something.
The hardest thing for a child to admit is when they have made a mistake, and it is even harder to do when they may have messed up on a computer. So, as you are working with your child about being safe on the Internet, let them know that if they make a mistake to come to you right away. You want to create a trust between you and your child, which will then make the experience of the Internet much more enjoyable for both of you.
Keeping your child safe on the Internet is a shared effort. Help them to understand the fun that the Internet can bring when used safely as well as the dangers. By teaching them young on how to navigate the Internet will prevent a lot of problems later.
Image source: Ben Timney