Helping Kids Stay Safe on Internet

Over the last few weeks we looked at how pornography affects families. In response to a query from a concerned mom about use of social networking sites by teens, I have come out with ten ways for your kids stay safe on the social web.

  1. Set your own home Internet rules: As soon as your children begin to use the Internet on their own, it is a good idea to come up with a list of rules for using the Internet that everyone can agree on. These rules should include whether your children can use social Web sites and how they can use them.  Set curfew and penalties for breaking rules.
  2. Ensure your kids follow age limits: The recommended age for signing up for social web sites is usually 13 and over. Do not allow younger children to use social media. It is important to remember that you cannot rely on the services themselves to keep your underage child from signing up. Limit sign up to one site per child.
  3. Educate yourself about the site. Evaluate the sites that your child plans to use and make sure both you and your child understand the privacy policy and the code of conduct. Find out if the site monitors content that people post. Also, review your child’s page periodically. Parents can begin to use the same site as well and be friend with your own children!
  4. Communicate with your children about their experiences. Encourage your children to tell you if something they encounter on one of these sites makes them feel anxious, uncomfortable or threatened. Stay calm and remind your kids they are not in trouble for bringing something to your attention. Let them know you will work with them to help resolve the situation for a positive outcome.
  5. Avoid identifiable information in profile. Be careful when your children divulge information that could be used to identify them, such as address, telephone numbers, email id, their school mascots etc. Have your children use only their first names or a nickname, but not a nickname that would attract inappropriate attention.
  6. Avoid Strangers. Encourage children to communicate with only people they have met in person. Insist that children never accept friend invitation from strangers or meet anyone in person whom they do not know and have met on the social site.
  7. Be Smart about posting photographs/videos: Explain to your children that photographs can reveal a lot of personal information. Encourage your children not to post photographs of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details such as street signs, license plates on their cars, or the name of their school on their sweatshirts.
  8. Warn children to express emotions online. Explain to your children that many of these words can be read by anyone with access to the Internet and that predators often search out emotionally vulnerable kids. Avoid posting poems or journal entries on the web.
  9. Install filtering tools to keep away unwanted materials. Ward off porn, foul language and other obnoxious stuff reaching your children mailbox or posting walls. Ensure safety and privacy levels are set age appropriately. Also review setting on the operating system for allowable content on the computer.
  10. Allow computer usage in a public place. Do not allow computers in children’s bedrooms or private study room. Home computer should be in public view and children are less likely to say or do things when they know others are around.

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