|Online Safety for Kids
Diana Johnson, Marketing, Wood NetworksOur kids are a special gift entrusted to us to raise, nurture, and teach for about 18 years. They don’t come with an instruction manual and we often forget how different the world is from when we were growing up. One area parents often neglect is the cyber world. As a parent constantly working in the technology arena, I thought I would pass on some tips for dealing with the Internet and the safety of our kids. Kids Under 9
- Investigate websites that are safe for kids. Bookmark sites you approve.
- Ask your child’s School Librarian what he/she considers appropriate sites. You may not agree, but it is a great place to start.
- Limit the time you allow your child to be online. For this age group limit leisure Internet usage to less than one hour per day.
- Password protect your Internet. If they don’t know the password, they can’t get on without your knowledge.
- Don’t allow this age group to post personal profiles, blogs or emails to public access sites.
- Avoid use of interactive gaming systems like Xbox Live or Wii, where they could potentially chat with strangers or go online unsupervised.
- Only allow your child to use child-friendly search engines, like Ask for Kids (www.askkids.com) or Yahoo Kids (Kids Games, Kids Movies, Kids Music, and More – Yahoo! Kids)
- Rather than trying to block potential bad sites, set Internet controls to only allow acceptable sites, trust me there are a lot fewer of those.
Kids 9 to 12
- Strengthen your filtering. At this age they will need to be able to access more information on a regular basis for school. The days of only allowing particular sites may be gone. Make sure you have a strong filter in place. A good one to investigate- bsecure (www.bsecure.com) . I used this one when my kids where younger. You can set it to the level you need.
- Use antispyware, virus protection, and pop-up blockers.
- Teach your child the golden rule- “Don’t just click, because you can.” I learned the hard way; your kids are always only one click away from installing spyware, malware, or a virus.
- Talk to your kids about online interaction. Make sure they know what an acceptable conversation is and how to disengage from a conversation should they not know the person.
- Make sure your kids understand that they are NEVER to give out any personal information online. This includes full name, address, phone number, email address, age, where they attend school, hobbies, parents’ names, etc.
- Talk about online respect. Respect for others’ feelings and respect for themselves.
- Limit leisure Internet usage to about an hour a day.
Kids 13 and up
By the age of 13, you should assume your child (now a teenager!) has internet access, whether at home, school, or a friend’s house. Also in this age group they begin exhibiting risky behaviors. For some teens it is a matter of not understanding the implication of their behavior while others are drawn to the thrill of the risk.
- Talk to your teens about predators and the danger of meeting in person with someone they have met online.
- Continue to use a filter at home, but loosen the controls. If your teen feels like everything is blocked, he/she will be more likely to try sites at a friend’s house.
- Block all dating and relationship sites.
- Teach your child about online rights and responsibilities. The right to keep information private and the responsibility to treat others kindly and respect their privacy.
- Make sure your child’s email account is linked to yours or that you have the password. Even if you never use it, the thought that mom or dad might be reading will keep many kids out of trouble.
- Talk to your child about pirated software, music, or movies.
- Kids at this age tend to handout their passwords to friends. Teach your teen this is not smart and set a complex password for their email and social media sites.
- Assist your teen in setting up social media sites like Facebook. Often teens do not know about their privacy rights.
- Keep the computer that has Internet access in a central location. If they aren’t sure who might be watching, there is less chance they will engage in risky behaviors.
- Have your teen Google him or herself monthly to see what others are saying about them. Wouldn’t hurt for you to Google them too.
The most noteworthy advice I can give you, is not to leave Internet security to firewalls, filters, and other safety measures. The best security you can have on the Internet is talking to your child about the risks and the reasons you are concerned.