Using the internet is sort of like letting your children loose in NY City. It's a dangerous place and much can go wrong if you're not educated on the facts. You need to understand how dangerous the internet is, what can happen, and how to prevent the bad things from occurring. You don't want to keep your kids from using the internet to discover wonderful things, but you do want to protect them from the seedier parts of life as long as you can. Talk to Your Child Talk to your child about the internet and how it's not private. They're not anonymous on the net no matter how careful they are with screen names, picture sharing and other instances. While most social networks offer some privacy settings, there are always those who can find ways to get around them. Assume anything you say or share online is available for the world's viewing. Any strange who asks to meet them is a danger. Monitor Your Child Place the computer in the family room while children are younger. After a child has reached an older age, about 15 to 17 years, and has shown how responsible they are, you can reconsider and allow them to have access to computers in their room. But, until then it's best that you can monitor their activity at all times. Make sure they know you're monitoring, too. For children, privacy is overrated when it comes to the internet. Would you let your child at their age alone to take a bus in NY City? If not, don't leave them alone with the internet. Give Your Child Rules The following set of rules will help keep your child safe on the internet. 1. No downloading anything without permission. 2. Don't share pictures unless approved by a parent. 3. Create screen names that offer no personal information. 4. Ask before sharing any personal information. 5. No talking to strangers. 6. No bullying - report bullying when you see it. 7. Follow the rules. 8. Use real research websites (ask a librarian). 9. If someone makes you uncomfortable, tell. 10. Don't meet anyone or invite them over that you met online. These rules are in place to keep your child safe. Explain to them that just because someone says they are a 14-year-old boy doesn't mean they are. Their pictures can be stolen and everything they say can be a lie. Talk to them about other children who have been kidnapped due to meeting a stranger from the internet. A really great person to follow online regarding this issue is Alicia Kozakiewicz. She was abducted when she met someone online and met him on the street. Her story is horrific, but she did survive and she has a lot to teach parents and teenagers. http://www.aliciaproject.org/
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