The Internet has become a crutch upon which the majority of the country depends upon. There was a time when the Internet was not such a readily available tool, and at that time public libraries were the go-to place for research projects for students. As the use of the Internet by children has expanded security has become a significant issue. Security is not just a problem for children completing research projects though; the fact of the matter is that in an age that centers on technology, children rely upon computers not only for research but also for entertainment and communication as well. There are a number of ways in which parents can ensure their child’s safety while using the net; in this article we will cover some of those methods.
Place the Computer in a Public Location
One of the biggest things that parents can do to help enforce appropriate Internet behavior is to always place the computer in a public location. It can be difficult to do this in an age where so many children have their own laptop or personal computer; however, it is one of the most efficient ways to ensure your child’s safety. If your child has their own laptop or personal computer you can request that your child be in the same room as you and even check their computer in and out with you so you know when it’s in use.
Password Protect Your Internet Access
By placing a password on your Internet access you make sure that your child is unable to access the Internet when you are not home to monitor their computer usage. It is important to make sure that the Internet password is one that your child is not familiar with or one that can be guessed easily and you should not allow your child to see you type in the password to their computer. By making sure that the password is not remembered on your child’s computer you can control when they are able to access the Internet. This method of locking down Internet access is not always successful since not everyone in a neighborhood locks down their Internet access. With computers that are able to wirelessly access the Internet it is possible for your child to access the Internet through the use of a neighbor’s unsecured network.
Set Specific Computer Access Times
This type of scheduled usage is not only beneficial in protecting your child from accessing adult material on the Internet but it is also helpful in minimizing the amount of time that your child spends on the Internet. This type of plan is generally implemented in households that have one computer that is shared by all family members; however, it can also be implemented in a home with multiple computers by taking possession of laptops and shutting down personal computers during “off hours.” Children who spend longer hours secluded in the home playing on the computer have a higher tendency towards obesity and introversion. In order for a child to be well rounded and healthy it is important to promote real life socialization as well as real life interactions by limiting computer use.
Teach Your Children What Is and Is Not Acceptable
When teaching your child what is and is not acceptable online it is important to keep conversations age appropriate. All children, however, should be instructed to inform an adult if they come across some type of content that is not acceptable. For the most part children will understand what is and is not acceptable content. Your child should also be taught what appropriate interaction with others is. Interaction with anyone other than those who are personally known should be discouraged and even for those who are acquainted with your child inappropriate activity is possible. Make sure that your child is aware that they should notify you if anyone attempts to share unacceptable material with them whether it is a stranger or a friend.
Always Know Your Child’s Passwords
Your child should never have a password that you are not familiar with. In general, passwords should be discouraged for things like logging in to a laptop that is kept within the home â laptops that are taken outside of the home such as for high school should have a password, however, to ensure that they are more secure against other students taking and using them. If there is an instance such as high school use of a laptop that requires a password it is important that your child shares that password with you so that you have unlimited access to their computer activity. Passwords may be required for initially logging in to a computer, opening a browser, opening chat programs like AIM, ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and Skype, logging in to email accounts, logging in to bank accounts and occasionally opening password protected documents such as Microsoft Word documents. When your child understands that there is a possibility that you will log in to their e-mail account and track their activity they are less likely to take part in questionable activity that could get them in to trouble in one way or another.
Limit the Use of Social Networking Sites
Social networking sites are the newest and most “popular” thing for most Internet users these days, particularly Facebook and Twitter. These services can be helpful for children to communicate with each other about school projects and without tying up phone lines and breaking texting limits on phones; however, they should be closely monitored. Using social networking websites makes it easier for certain unsavory individuals to target children so use of these types of sites should always be monitored and children should not “add” friends that they do not personally know without talking to an adult first.
The Importance of Being Proactive
There is a difference between being proactive and being a nosy, meddling parent, although your child (particularly your teenager) is going to have trouble understanding that idea. Sometimes as a parent it is important to play the “bad guy” and be unpopular for the choices that you make and the rules that you enforce. In the case of Internet security being the “bad guy” could mean saving your child from being exposed to (or worse) child predators, thieves, and online bullies. As a child, it is often hard to understand that such bad people exist in the world. Children feel invincible and protected from all of the bad things out there because as parents you do your best to make it that way but this becomes a problem when it comes to interacting on the Internet.