As in the “real” world, children are vulnerable when they enter the world of the internet. Even without meaning to, it is easy for them to come into contact with the darker side of the net. In our work at the Council, we have become all too familiar with the perils of the online world for children in our community. Here are just a few simple tips and some resources for parents who are getting started or want to learn more about keeping their kids safe online.
Communicate – KEY to any effort to raising healthy, adjusted children is communication. Make sure you explain your concerns with using the internet or apps with your children. Encourage them to let you know about any sites or behaviors online that make them feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Educate – Make sure you keep up with trending websites and apps so that you are aware of potential issues. Familiarize yourself with your child’s computer or phone especially – including any passwords.
Demarcate – Set clear rules regarding internet or mobile usage, including time restrictions and parental controls. It is best to set geographic boundaries as well, making sure any usage is in an area with appropriate adult supervision (not in an isolated room).REMEMBER – internet and mobile usage should be a PRIVILEDGE NOT A RIGHT.
Contemplate – Try to model the appropriate behavior for your children. Before you post hundreds of personal pictures on a social media site or share a story including the names of your children or birthdays, stop and think about who can see it and if personal details are necessary.
Above all: make sure they understand and follow these simple rules for protecting their own privacy:
- never give out their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, home address, school, or picture without your permission
- never open e-mail from people they don’t know
- never get together with anyone they “meet” online.
Other Resources for Parents:
NetSmartz – produced by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Chidlren
former staff attorney Ken Harris and Communication Director LuAnn Ritsema contributed to this post.