Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online

--Philip J Reed, on behalf of Westwood College

It may not be the most pleasant topic, but with young children in the family who get ever more attached to their electronic devices it's crucial that we stay aware of what they're doing, and also make them aware of the dangers. The Internet has revolutionized the way people send and receive information. The change has been groundbreaking, but it has also put our children in harm's way. By following a few safety measures, however, this risk can be substantially reduced.

Following a few guidelines can greatly reduce the dangers that children face online. These are only a few suggestions, and we’d like to hear any others that you may practice yourself.

First and foremost, parents should keep the computer in a family room, not their child's bedroom. If your child does have his or her own computer, it’s easy enough to disable internet access. This will still allow them to use their computer for homework, games or other diversions, but it will keep them accessing the internet without you being aware of what they’re seeing.

Education is also a very important measure. By warning your child of the dangers of internet predators and the potential dishonesty of their online acquaintances, they are far less likely to become victims of any kind. Keep them aware of the danger, and keep them aware of how real that danger is. Posture as children sometimes might, no child truly wants to find themselves endangered. Make them aware of the gravity of the situation, and also let them know why you are concerned. They may not thank you for it, but they will appreciate it.

It may seem like snooping, but when it can protect your child it’s important to be aware of what your child is doing. Most internet browsers allow you to easily view a list of the most recently accessed sites, and this can make you aware of any warning signs. Of course the internet is not always a pleasant place, and it’s possible that your child accessed objectionable content accidentally. That in itself is not always a cause for concern, but when you see these sites being repeatedly accessed, it’s important to take action. You may also wish to have the password for their personal email account, or, better, not allow them to have a personal email account and require that all email go through a family account.

There are many signs parents can look for if they suspect their children are inappropriately communicating with strangers, or accessing or creating objectionable content. Do they close their browser or shut down their computer when you enter the room? Do previously-excitable children suddenly seem withdrawn? Are they finding more and more time to spend online than they have been in the past? Again, these things might signify nothing, but it’s important to keep an eye out for changes in attitude and behavior. If there’s a problem, you don’t want to wait until it’s too late.

Parents can also watch for contact between their children and unknown persons by carefully monitoring both the mail and the telephone. According to an FBI publication, A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety, strangers will often try to get a child's home telephone number or send them gifts or packages through the U.S. Mail. Be aware of any penpals they have, and take notice of any letters or packages they receive from new and different names. Also, know your children’s friends. Know their names, know where they live, and have access to their parents’ phone numbers. If you’re suspicious that your child isn’t really where he or she says they are, follow up with the parents and check.

The internet is an exciting but also potentially dangerous place. Police, politicians, IT specialists and everyone with cyber security training are always trying to come up with new and better ways to keep us – and especially our children – safe online. It isn’t easy, but you might be surprised just how far a little bit of awareness, education, and interest in your child’s life can go!

1 comment:

  1. I must say that the best way for you to keep your children safe online is for you to be there when they browse sites. Also it also can help if you install firewall on your home PC.