Top 10 Internet Safety Tips
Introduction: Unsafe worlds
We all know it’s a dangerous world, and we want our children to be as safe as possible in it. In our efforts to keep them safe from the dangers outside the home we sometimes lose sight, I think, of how dangerous the cyber world can be. The virtual realm, which lies just a click away at school, the public library, at home or at a friend’s house, can be just as dangerous – even more so – than the real world. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of my personal top 10 internet safety tips to help keep your children safe online.
Internet Safety Tips for Parents
1. Talk to your kids. The first of my top 10 internet safety tips may well be the most crucial bit of advice on this list. It’s certainly critical for establishing a solid foundation for protecting your kids from the numerous dangers of the online world. I can’t understate the importance of having trust and an open line of communication between parent and child. Talk to him or her about how often they use the web and where they use it; about the sites they visit and why.
2. Never share passwords. No list of tips for internet safety would be complete without this piece of advice. If your child uses email, a social networking site or other site that requires password access, it’s extremely important to stress to him or her the importance of keeping passwords private. You – the parent – teachers, or anyone else of whom you approve, are the only individuals to whom children should ever divulge passwords. Make certain you’re aware of every site, every account your child uses that requires a password.
3. Never meet someone you met online in person. This is another piece of advice no list of tips for internet safety should be without. Children have a difficult time grasping the dangers of the real world, let alone the cyber world. As such, without a reminder, it might not occur to them that someone they meet online might not be the person they claim to be. The potential danger of a child being victimized by a fraudulent online predator is yet one more reason it’s so important to know and talk to your child about what he or she is doing online.
4. Don’t talk to strangers. This is one where real-world rules and cyber-world rules overlap. In the cyber world, though, this rule can be even more important to follow. If you want to keep your children safe from online predators, teach them not to respond to unsolicited internet communications from strangers. Stress to them the importance of not seeking out such interactions. That means chat rooms, etc. are a no-no. Of course, as always, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and to know what your children are doing online.
5. Never give out personal information. Kids are never too young to start learning the importance of protecting private, personal information. Information such as first and last name, the school a child attends, home address, parents’ names, and telephone numbers should never be posted online in any form without a parent or teacher’s consent. Stress to your children, too, that if a stranger – or even an acquaintance – asks for such information online, the child is in no way obligated to provide it; saying “no” is perfectly acceptable.
6. Use filtering-and-blocking software. Filtering-and-blocking software has evolved to become an extremely effective tool for monitoring, supervising and controlling your child’s online activity.
7. Don’t let your kids fall prey to cyber bullies. Online bullying has become a hot topic in recent years – and with good reason. A problem once confined to the real world has migrated into the online realm, intensifying the levels of anxiety, emotional distress and humiliation associated with bullying, as real-and cyber-world harassment combine to form a vicious circle that feeds off itself. Cases of children being victimized by classmates online, especially via social networking sites, have made national headlines, with more than a few of the victims committing suicide. Here again, the importance of communication between you and your child can’t be underemphasized. If your child’s being bullied online, the only way you can help is if you know about it. Teach your child not to respond to rude, harassing, threatening or obscene messages, but to report them immediately to you, to a teacher, or to some other trusted authority figure.
8. Children shouldn’t post photos or videos online without parental approval. This tip again depends upon open communication and trust between parent and child. You should stress to your child that posting online photos can be dangerous. For one, once a picture is posted, it can never be truly deleted and will be out there on the internet, in one place or another, forever. This is advice your children will continue to benefit from long after he or she no longer needs you to supervise online behavior. If a child does post a picture, it should not contain information regarding school names, locations or other information that could compromise personal safety or privacy.
9. Don’t open email attachments or click links from unknown senders. Email attachments are notorious for containing viruses or other malicious code, a fact of which a child might not yet be aware. Teach them. Links embedded into emails can be set up to route the user to a site that infects his or her computer with malicious software. Teach kids to delete the email if they don’t know the sender – no exceptions. Likewise, links on social media sites can be similarly manipulated to infect the user. Teach you kids to be careful what they “like.”
10. Keep computers confined to a centralized, communal area where the entire family can access them. Considering how heavily modern education depends on computers for instruction, this last of my internet safety tips for parents may seem the least productive or the most counter-intuitive; however, if you allow your child to have his or her own PC set up in their room, it can be significantly harder to keep track of what they’re doing or what sites they’re visiting. Buy one computer for the whole family, give everybody a separate log-in (make sure you know everybody’s password, though) and put it somewhere in the house everyone can access it. Be sure to load monitoring software on your communal computer, too, that’s connected to each of your child’s devices.
As I stated above, the single most important factors in keeping your child safe online are open lines of communication and trust. If you can establish a relationship of honesty and openness with your child regarding online behavior, he or she will be much safer and much less likely to become a cyber-victim.
By Frank Winston, SoftActivity
Photo by Mike Myers (Flickr)
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