The Internet is full of endless information and when used responsibly it can be a wonderful resource. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I do not “Google” a topic to research more information. I use the Internet to research papers, communicate with other people, shop as well as many other things. We are in the computer age and computers are everywhere with access to the Internet through laptops, tablets, and phones. Easy and prolific access to the internet can also be a hazard if used inappropriately in the wrong hands. That's why it's important to be aware of what your kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online.
Internet Safety Laws
Getting Involved in Kids' Online Activities
- Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material. Many Internet providers provide parent-control options to block certain material from being seen on your computer. Many sites use "cookies," devices that track specific information about the user, such as name, email address, and shopping preferences. Cookies can be disabled. Ask your Internet service provider for more information. There is also software you can buy that helps block access to certain sites. You can also use filtering programs to block sites from appearing on your computer and restrict personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity. But no software is 100%.
- Keep your computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms, where you can watch and monitor its use. When you are not home make sure the computer cannot be used without your monitoring. This includes taking the monitor cord with you or locking up your laptop. Make sure you child has your permission to be on the Internet.
- Share an email account with your child so you can monitor messages. Connect this email to your cell phone so you get notified of incoming emails. Routinely check this account.
- Bookmark kids' favorite sites for easy access. This reduces the potential of typing in the wrong search word or website and stumbling on inappropriate content.
- Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior. Sit with your children while they are on the Internet.
- Set rules for your child: Never trade personal photographs in the mail or scanned photographs over the Internet. Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, age or school name or location. Use only a screen name. Never agree to meet anyone from a chat room in person. Never respond to a threatening email or message. Always tell a parent about any communication or conversation that was scary. If your child has a new "friend," insist on being "introduced" online to that friend. Do not pretend to be someone else.
- Never share personal details, like name and address. Never share your passwords but make sure you have all your children’s passwords and check those accounts frequently.
- Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges and atypical use.
- Find out what, if any, your child’s school, after-school center, library, friends’ homes offer online protection, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
- Forward copies of obscene or threatening messages you or your kids get to your Internet service provider and contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet. Understand the site's rules and know how to flag other users for misbehavior. Recognize "red flags," like if someone asks you personal questions like your name and address.
Should I let my kid get a Facebook page?
- Think before you post. Once the post is out there you cannot take it back.
- Ask your parents before visiting other Facebook pages. Facebook pages can be created by anyone and can expose your children to sexually graphic pictures and language.
- Notify parents if they see any cyberbullying of friends or themselves. As well as any “friend requests.” Have you child get your permission before accepting any “friend requests.”
- Share an email account with your child to help you monitor their incoming messages. Children should provide their parents with their passwords and parents should continue to randomly and regularly check their site and settings. Email accounts that are created without the parent’s permission and without the parent’s access are not allowed and may result in loss of internet privileges.
- Know that anything you post online can be used in ways you never intended. Pictures of your child and their friends should be limited postings and profile pictures should be of other objects or characters, and not your child. Be sure to check with other parents about posting pictures of their child on your page or your child’s page. Many parents do not wish to allow any pictures of their child on the internet.
- Use privacy settings. Stress the importance of privacy settings and parents should continue to check your children’s privacy settings as they can be altered by the child with each and every post.
- Be intentional about who you allow your child to be “friends” with on Facebook. Allowing your child to be “friends” with other children you do not know may result in your child having access to information through that child’s unmonitored page. Also, allowing a child to be “friends” with adults who are family and/or friends of the family may present the child with some unintended access to adult comics or salacious language that may not be anything more than racy for an adult, but inappropriate for a 13 year old.
- The same rules apply for communication and internet access through cell phones. All text messages and pictures on a cell phone must be monitored by parents.