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The Internet has become a necessary part of life. And why not? There is a lot of great information to be had there. It's like the Netsmartz Video Julie's Journey, which says: "It's a tool that has to be used properly." Turning your child loose on the Internet without any guidance or instruction is like giving them the keys to your car and never giving them a driving lesson. They could figure it out; but at what cost? Sometimes, it is at the cost of their life. There are some tips that are important measures to help protect your child.
Put the computer in a common area - This means the living room, a family room, or any room where people commonly use. This puts the computer and your child in your direct vision and gives the first level of monitoring. NEVER allow your child to have a computer in their room. This allows for too much privacy and the opportunity to do things you would not approve of. Remember, most children ages 12 to 17 say that they do things online that they would not want their parents to know about.
Supervise your children's computer usage - Filtering software is a good tool, and one that probably should be used, but don't rely solely on it. For every filter, there is a way to override it. Usually there are Internet sites that tell your children how to overcome the parental controls. There is nothing to say they have any right to privacy on the Internet, it is your home and they are your child. The best monitor is your eyes watching what they are doing. This also provides for good family time.
Supervise your childen's computer usage - If your child knows more about the computer and Internet than you, let them teach you what they know, then seek out other sources to become more knowledgeable than your child. We realize technology can be scary for many adults, but it's incumbent on you as a parent to know more than your child. If you know more than your child, teach them ways to be safe.
Children should never give out personal information on the Internet - Make sure they know personal information includes not only name, address, phone number, etc., but also things like screen names, passwords, the school they go to, and any other information that could help someone track them. Children should know they don't have to respond to any message, email or communications sent to them. They should know that if you are not monitoring they should immediately seek you out to handle and be aware of messages from people they don't know, or you have not approved them to communicate with.
Don't trust everything on the Internet - Children should not believe anything they receive from an unknown source on the Internet, this includes random websites they may come across. Have them show you what sites they visit and what they know how to do online.
Supervise your children's computer usage - If you have allowed them to use an instant messaging and/or chat program, make sure the settings have the archive function turned on so you can review the chats later. Our recommendation is that they not use them, but you have to weigh the pros and cons for your family. If they do use these services, talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they first "met" online or that you do not know they are communicating with online, no matter what that person threatens or promises.
Become familiar with the lingo - Chat and message language is almost like a foreign language.
Supervise your children's computer usage - This means that they should feel comfortable coming to you and openly talking about Internet issues. Although as a parent it may be difficult, your child should know that even if they disobeyed you initially and got into a situation that is over their head, they can come to you for help in getting out. This likely means using it as a learning experience without a discipline you would normally use. If you take away their Internet or something else important, or whatever discipline you normally do, this means coming to mom and dad is trouble. Be understanding and help them through it -- it may just save their life.
Have clearly defined Internet rules - You can create your own rules, or the best ones are provided by NetSmartz and available on their Web site. Click Here to open the link in a new window or you can find them under Documents & Publications above. For some reason children do better at following contracts and put more effort into them. Have these rules posted on or near the monitor so they are visible whenever your child is on the computer.
Be in control of your Intenet - All Internet accounts in the home should be in the parent's name with the parents holding the primary screen name, controlling passwords and setting the blocking and/or filtering devices. The screen name the child does have should be nondescript, gender and age neutral so as not to identify the child user.
Apply all the old rules - All the things you have been taught about safety in general still applies here. The Internet is just another way the predator is using to target your child. The same old fashion safety tips apply. One thing to keep in mind is that studies show that scaring them with stranger danger does not work.
Talk frankly with the kids - But But keep in mind, you don't have to make them terrified to get your point across. As a matter of fact, that is probably more counterproductive than helpful. Also, the idea that the biggest danger comes from someone you and your child don't know is one of the biggest myths surrounding child safety. The fact is that 89% of children sexually exploited are exploited by someone they know, 25% from a family member, and 64% from a family acquaintance. Only 11% came from actual "strangers."
Be involved - This is really #1. The biggest factor is to be involved and proactive in your child's life. If you have read to this point, you have already reduced their risk of being a victim. There is no 100% way to protect your child at all times, but the majority of predators go for the easy target. Any measures you take will reduce the chance they will target your child. The more measures you take and the more education you both receive, the more you reduce their chances of being exploited.