Family Computer Monitoring and Safety
The Internet is one of the great marvels of modern technology. It enables children to virtually visit the entire world and exchange knowledge, culture, and even goods. The anonymous and global nature of the Internet, however, also exposes children to a variety of serious threats. These include sexual predators of all ages, hackers, identity thieves, and cyberbullies. Because children are especially vulnerable on a physical and mental level to these threats, it is necessary for parents to learn how to watch over their children when they’re using the Internet and otherwise protect their family computer from hazards that lurk online.
One of the most effective ways that parents can reduce Internet threats is by being directly involved in the online activities of their children. This means talking to them about the dangers that exist online, educating them about basic Internet security tips, and encouraging them to share things that they find when they surf the Web. Children should also be instructed to report objectionable content such as pornography, bigotry, or violent content to their parents. Before a child ever gets online, be sure that they understand the rules of exploring cyberspace, such as avoiding objectionable websites, not engaging in cyberbullying, and never attempting to meet with strangers. Children should also be further warned against sharing personal information online, including where they go to school or other information that can help predators find them in real life.
Children may stumble upon or even hang out on gaming, social media, and other Web sites that are unsuitable for their age. This can also bring them into contact with pedophiles, human traffickers, and other child predators. These predators primarily attempt to trick children into meeting them in real life. To prevent this, direct children to websites that are child-oriented, as they will have more age-appropriate games. Parents should routinely check online activity even when children are on child-friendly sites, as predators often falsely represent themselves as children in efforts to chat with, send pictures to, or potentially meet them. Internet usage monitoring software can observe the sites that a child is visiting while they are visiting them, enabling parents to collect evidence and also take immediate action. It can also help parents adapt their filtering software to protect children from visiting unacceptable websites in the future. Another way to protect children is to place the family computer in an open area such as the living room, rather than their bedroom.
Cyberbullies are another major problem that parents need to look out for. In many cases, these predators are other children who are looking to hurt a child’s feelings or ruin their reputation with their peers. Parents should advise their children not to engage in hostile exchanges with cyberbullies but rather inform their parents or a teacher of what is going on. Parents should collect all evidence of the behavior and share the information with the school and, if threats are involved, law enforcement. If bullies have created fake Web pages about the child, contact the website administrator to take them down, and if the bullies are attacking a child on their social media site, use the website’s tools to block the offenders and remove the defamatory content that they’ve posted. If a child notices someone else is being bullied, OnGuardOnline advises that parents should tell their children to intervene and ask the bully to stop. Children should be instructed to never forward negative information about another child that they receive via any form of communication, be it phone calls, text messages, chats, or emails.
One of the most common threats that a child may bring into the home from the Internet is a computer virus. Viruses and other forms of malicious software, or malware, can delete precious files or transmit personal information to criminals hiding somewhere else in the world. This information could include Social Security numbers, credit card or other financial details, and other things that could cause financial damage to a household. Downloading untrustworthy computer programs, reading infected emails, and browsing infected Web pages are the most common ways that viruses get into computer systems. To minimize the risk of this happening, it is important to keep computers current with the latest operating system security patches as well as install software firewalls and antivirus programs that stay up-to-date with the latest viruses. Email filtering programs can help remove spam and unknown email attachments, which sometimes contain viruses. Website filtering programs can keep children away from unsafe websites or, depending on how they are configured, even restrict them to sites that parents have approved. Most operating systems also enable parents to set up accounts for children that won’t let them easily override the restrictions that have been put in place for their protection.
Computers play an important and necessary part in the lives of children and the adults in a family. They can, unfortunately, also become a threat to family safety and security as well. Fortunately, simple actions can help parents keep their families safe when using the computer. Protecting one’s family and family computer requires not only knowledge of how the Internet and computers work but also vigilance on the part of parents.
For more information about protecting children from cyber-threats, visit the following links:
- A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety
- NetSafeKids: Monitoring
- Apps Help Parents Monitor Children’s Internet Use
- Protect Your Computer From Viruses, Hackers, And Spies
- Featured: Info for Parents
- Chatting With Kids About Being Online (PDF)
- Keeping Your Personal Information Secure Online
- Protect Kids On The Internet
- How to Protect Your Kids From Cyber Bullying
- A Safety Net for the Internet: Protecting Our Children
- Protect Kids’ Privacy Online (PDF)
- Actions Home Users Can Take To Protect Their Computer Systems
By Frank Winston, SoftActivity
Photo by J_O_I_D, Flickr
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