May 20th, 2015

Parental Control, Tips for Monitoring Child Safety Online

The Internet is an invaluable and unavoidable tool for both adults and children. Not only is it an excellent means of education, but it is also a great way for kids to have fun and socialize with their peers. Unfortunately, the Internet is also potentially dangerous for children. Sexual predators and cyberbullies are some of the common threats that face children when they are online. In addition, children are also at risk of exposure to mature materials or downloading harmful viruses to the family computer. Educated parents can take steps to make their children’s online experiences safe.

Know the Threats

The first means of understanding the potential threats that face children is to understand that the problem is continually evolving. There is a great deal of adult material found on the internet, with not all of it being graphic picture-based nudity or sex scenes. Parents using parental control filters to block out chat rooms and pornographic websites might not be protecting their children from other inappropriate content found online, such as a random blog post describing recent war crimes, fan fiction with erotic prose, or even racist or sexist humor. There are also Internet forums that children can discover, and these may contain profanity or a wide variety of otherwise objectionable content. The world of user-generated content is, in general, unpredictable, and prone to adult themes that are unsuitable for children.

Social media websites are another concern for parents. On these sites, people communicate with each other nearly as rapidly as real-time chat rooms. Children may encounter cyber-predators or bullies on social media sites, along with other traditionally objectionable content. Moreover these environments may even entice a child to become a bully themselves. With new websites constantly appearing, blacklisting all of the inappropriate content that a child might encounter is impossible.

Talking to Your Kids

A step toward protecting a child from the dangers lurking on the Internet is establishing lines of communication. Parents and guardians should explain the potential threats children may encounter when they’re online, predators, bullies and identity thieves being just a few examples. Informing children of the dangers of giving out personal information like home addresses or phone numbers is also crucial to ensuring their safety. Teach children how to respond to threats, such as invitations to meet someone in person. A sit-down discussion to establish house rules involving online activity can also be helpful, particularly if the child is allowed input in the discussion.

A part of keeping the doors of communication open is to continue to show interest in the child’s online activities. Without coming across as nosy or intrusive, parents will want to casually inquire about the types of websites that their kids visit. Kids should know that if they have any concerns about their activities on the Internet that their parents are available and willing to listen. When listening to a child’s concerns, however, it is important to avoid overreacting, as this can have a negative effect and cause the child to close the door on future communication.

What to Do

In addition to communication, a common protective strategy for parents is to use parental control software to create blacklists. Blacklists are software tools that block bad words and known sources of objectionable content. Most major web search engines also have the ability to block objectionable content through the use of strict filtering.

In the event that a child uses the Internet to do something inappropriate, such as visiting an objectionable website or harassing someone else, the parents must take corrective action. While sitting down and talking to a child about the consequences of their behavior sometimes works, it may also be necessary to resort to revoking their Internet access privileges or other similar prohibitions. Parents should never lose their tempers in these situations; it is always more effective to maintain one’s composure and calm while dealing with unacceptable behavior. It may also be necessary to establish an account on the same websites, especially social networking sites, to keep an eye on a child’s online activities.

Go Online and Surf the Internet

Internet savvy parents are best equipped to protect their children because of their understanding of the online community and changes that occur. Parents should consider joining social networking sites and familiarizing themselves with their children’s activities by “friending” them and also maintaining a list of their children’s passwords. While online they should browse websites that their children frequently visit to ensure there are no potential causes for concern. The Internet is also a way to discover more ways to protect kids from the latest threats that face them. Parents will find safety tips, communication advice, and even contracts that kids can sign as a way of promising to be safe while online.

By Frank Winston, SoftActivity
Photo by Lupuca