With computers and the internet becoming ever more pervasive in our lives, chances are every child in your life will be headed online before you know it. The web can of course be a wonderful source of information, enlightenment and knowledge, but it can also represent a danger to children. It is important that all parents have a plan in place to keep their kids safe as they explore the vast recesses of the internet.
One of the best defenses against inappropriate websites is simply to place the computer in an open area, like the living room, instead of in the child's bedroom. Knowing that mom and dad could walk by at any moment and see the images displayed on the screen is a strong deterrent for many kids and teens.
Parental control software can help as well. Most of these applications filter and block access to web sites that fall into categories that mom and dad designate as off limits to the kids. Some even have a stealth mode where it will log the keystrokes, the history and the violations while allowing full access to net. After all, if the kids do not know the software is there they will not be able to go around or disable it.
On the flip side, it is also important for mom or dad to check periodically to make sure that the filtering software is still up and running. Many teenagers and even younger children have gotten quite adept at getting around the most popular forms of filtering software. Some of the better ones on the market today are CyberPatrol, Net Nanny and Safe Eyes. Although there are generally no free trial offers for this group of filtering software, they are reasonably priced. Just consider this a small investment to help you safeguard your children for those times that you are not there.
For kids and teens who want to set up personal accounts on popular sites like MySpace or Facebook, it is important to set some ground rules. Perhaps the most important ground rule is never to include any type of personal contact information, like addresses or phone numbers, in the account. This kind of information can easily be exploited and misused by online predators and other criminals.
It is also important to stress to children that people are not always who they claim to be online. One of the attractions of the internet is the supposed anonymity it can provide, and that means that people are free to pretend to be anyone they want to be. It is important for your daughter to know, for instance, that the thirteen-year-old boy she is chatting with online could in fact be a 40 year old man.
Kids should also be taught that they do not have to accept threatening or harassing behavior online, and if they find any conversation inappropriate or uncomfortable it should be ended right away and brought to the attention of the parents. Keeping an open line of communication will go a long way in keeping the kids safe, both online and off.