Parents: The Internet is a wonderful tool for children full of possibilities for researching, learning and keeping in touch with friends and families. To best use this tool, children and parents need to know how to use it effectively and how to use it safely. In this article I will share some important safety tips to keep your child safe while using the Internet.
Your child is probably a digital native. Together you can experience cyberspace with your child by learning to use the Internet and some of its features. You can keep track of your child’s Internet activity. The computer has a feature called “History” and one called “Cookies.” These features will allow you to see what websites your child is visiting. Keeping communication lines open will let them know that your responsibility is to check on their Internet activity to assure their safety. It will also help assure your child that they can come to you if they encounter frightening communications or images. Every parent should help his or her child learn to protect his/her self-online even if you don’t have Internet in your home. Internet is as close as using a friend’s cell phone at McDonalds. Your children have Internet access all around them.
Experts strongly suggest your child not have a computer or at least no Internet access in his or her room. Place the computer in a common area so you can monitor.
Online Do’s and Don’ts for children:
• Do keep track of your child’s Internet activity. The computer has a feature called “History” and one called “Cookies.” These features will allow you to see what websites your child is visiting.
• Do choose an email address/screen name that DOES NOT contain any part of your name, age, gender, interests or favorite activities
• Do fill out an online profile under parent supervision and approval
• Don’t ever give out their real name, telephone or cell phone number(s), mailing address, or passwords
• Do allow children to enter chat rooms only when supervised by an adult
• Don’t post photographs in publicly accessible sites
• Don’t ever give out their real name, telephone or cell phone number(s), mailing address, or passwords of family members
• Social networking sites such as Facebook have an age limit of 13 years to set up a profile
• DO set up your profile to Private and Friends only – otherwise they are giving cyber predators permission to view your life
• Don’t lie about your age to join a site with age limits
• Do use networking with your friends. It is not a place to meet new people
• Do learn how to delete mean or embarrassing comments
• Do only accept new friends who are known to the child AND parent
• Do be sure your child “friends” you
• Do protect personal information as well as personal information about friends.
• Don’t allow children’s cameras & phones to geotag photos! Children, photos, & GPS coordinates don’t mix
• Do change these settings as they are often the phones automatically activated features
• Do remind children that anyone can lie online. They may think they are talking to someone their own age, but it could be predator fishing for information
• Do make children aware of the danger signs of cyber predators
• Asking for a child’s picture
• Inviting a child to view their web cam
• Asking if the child is alone
• Talking about sexual matters
• Saying that they want to meet the child in person
• Requesting the child’s phone number or address
• Do stop harassment, because the Internet can feel anonymous, some children may join others in harassing other children.
• Do teach children that the Internet is a public forum; anonymity is a myth.
• Do help children realize that once you have placed your picture on a public Internet site, it’s out there FOREVER and there is no taking it back.
• Do teach children that everything posted online is tracked and stored
• Do help them be the good person online that they are when they’re offline.
• Do tell them that it is not OK for people to threaten or pick on them online, they should tell someone
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Arizona Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force have produced materials for adults and kids with tips to help spot potential Internet predators and how to best protect personal information on the World Wide Web. Their website covers topics such as Internet safety, cyber bullying, and sexting as well as providing parent and student guides. Check out their web site at http://www.azag.gov/children_family/netsafety.html and remember to keep children safe while they use technology for fun and education!
Kathy Epperson is the Technology Integration Coach for the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.