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Protecting Children Online - Be Involved and Aware of Your Child's Internet Use

written by: •edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 4/20/2009

Explains the importance of practicing basic internet safety with children.

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    Practice Basic Internet Safety Procedures with Children

    The following basic internet safety guidelines are applied to children and teenagers.

    • Don’t share passwords and logon information with boyfriends, girlfriends, members of a club or organization, or anyone else not responsible for their actions and safety.
    • Remember that anyone can publish a website including criminals, fraudsters, predators, and hatemongers. More teenagers are rapidly creating their own websites and developing their professional network of friends and colleagues even before they complete school and have their first job. This is one of the advantages of new technology but remember to check all website polices before surrendering personal information in exchange for a download or access to restricted content at a website.
    • Remind children that you are responsible for their safety and actions. Downloading files from the internet (chatroom exchange, email, directly from websites) is a potential safety hazard to all computer users. Remind your child all downloads have the potential to contain an infector that could be a virus, spyware, or a backdoor that could possibly jeopardize the family’s privacy and safety. If your teenager illegally downloads music on a computer or electronic device that you own, you are still responsible. This is not different than your teenager unintentionally breaking the neighbor’s house window. Let children know that you periodically check the “History,” “Sent Email,” “Temporary Internet Files,” and “Deleted Items” folders on the computer they use along with cell phone logs, voice messages, pictures and text messages. Look for anything unordinary that was sent from or received by your child. If you do not know how, ask a friend, librarian, or co-worker. Remember that many “unordinary” received emails could be spam and not correspondence between your child and another user.
    • Every internet user has the right to immediately leave when an online situation makes them feel uncomfortable or uneasy by closing the browser or disconnecting from the internet. Uncomfortable situations are not always a prelude to dangerous situations. Uncomfortable situations can be any conversation or picture that is repulsive, inflammatory, unpleasant, violent, hateful, or sexual.
    • Remind children not to post anything at a website, forum, blog, or social networking website that the whole world should not know about them or anyone else. This includes: compromising pictures, family, vacation or school schedules, names, addresses and phone numbers of schools, friends, yourself, relatives, banking and credit information, indications of personal or friends' household economic status, allowances, shopping preferences, etc. If you want random visitors to contact you from the web page, use a disposable email address instead of the email address provided by your internet service provider so it can be easily inactivated if the wrong persons contact your child. Remember that spammers can harvest email addresses.
    • Be attentive to any website or download that requires registration by providing your child’s name, address, phone, credit card information, likes or dislikes, family income, or email address before the visitor can access the website or download a file.
    • Remind your child not to post anything that could get them or someone else in trouble. Respect the other person’s privacy and feelings even if they think they will not get caught or get in trouble. If your child or teenager will think twice about something in the everyday world, then they need to think twice about it on the internet.
    • Be especially careful to watch teenagers in chat rooms and with text messaging. Remind them not to download, say, or post anything they do not want the whole world to know including you, grandparents, future friends or employers. Chatrooms usually have one topic per “room” sometimes for people of a particular age group or for persons interested in a particular topic. There is not a guarantee only honorable persons interested in the specified topic and within the age limits will visit the particular chatroom.
    • Anyone met online may not be who they seem to be even if you have been corresponding and interacting online for quite a while. Consistently remind teenagers never to get together with anyone they meet online unless you are present at both the arranging and the meeting at a very public place like a mall or amusement park. Teach children to be aware of the (online) “friend” who uses logic to try to convince your child to do something they know is wrong, you would not approve of, or does not want to do.

    With mobile phones, consider preparing a prearranged text message to you or a particular adult so your child can call without talking to let you know that they need to immediately get out of a situation they are in.