Children’s online safety is an ever-growing concern with the technology available today and the increasing accessibility of the Internet. It is important to make sure that we are equipped with the necessary tools to protect them in the digital age. June is Internet Safety Month and we think it’s a good time to raise awareness for protecting children and teens online.
Here are some tips for online safety and discussion starters to help get a conversation going within your family.
First and foremost, do not allow the computer to become your child’s babysitter. Be constantly aware of what they are looking at online and the sites they are visiting. Surf the Internet with your children and let them show you what they like to do online, this way you can know what they are being exposed to while spending some quality time with them.
Establish limits for which sites the children may visit and for how long. Try to keep the computer in a high traffic area of the house so that you can constantly check in on them.
An easy discussion starter could be:
- What are your favorite things to do online? Then, let them show you the sites.
Remind your kids to always think ‘Safety First’ when it comes to getting on the Internet. Discuss what the term “personal information” means, and to never disclose any of it online. Understand that they may not know what personal information is, so it is important to be specific when explaining.
Do not let them use their real name anywhere on the Internet that you are not aware of. Remember that technology can be mobile so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices, and laptops. It is important to keep an ongoing conversation about Internet safety with your children.
A couple of discussion starters regarding online safety are:
- What is personal information and why should you keep it private?
- What could you do to be safer online?
Discuss with your children what age appropriate online conduct is and what it is not. Make sure they are following the restrictions you have put in place for their safety. You can use monitoring and filtering software to help prevent them from seeing anything you would not want them to see.
Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for activities like social networking, instant messaging, emailing, online gaming, and using web cams. It is essential to understand the steps involved in reporting suspicious behavior online.
Some discussion starters for appropriate conduct and interaction are:
- What would you do if anyone online asked to meet you face to face?
- Besides me, who do you feel like you can talk to if you are in a scary or uncomfortable situation?
Share your Internet safety plan with other parents, and talk to them about what has worked for their children. Please stay alert to changes in your child’s behavior. If they are becoming secretive about computer time, know that it is time to take action.
For more information on internet safety, visit www.netsmartz.org