Whether your children use the Internet for school research, games or to chat with their friends, it’s clear that the web is a great resource and tool for the exchange of information. As a parent, it is understandable to be concerned about your children having access to websites they should not visit, such as websites with violent, inaccurate, extreme, or age-inappropriate content. Children’s websites are also not immune to cyber criminals and their malicious intent.
Given how widely used the Internet is today, how can you protect your children online?
1. Get to know the technologies your children are using
Not only will this help you better understand the types of risks your children face, and be able to talk to them about what they are doing online, using these technologies will also allow you to learn about the parental control features on these technologies.
In fact, some security software allow you to set parental control features for only when your children use the computer, not when you are using it. Internet content filters also enable you to restrict what content is viewed and downloaded online.
2. Set rules and boundaries for Internet use and post them clearly near the computer
Using a shared family computer, as opposed to letting them have their own personal computer, is a start. This way, your child will need to get permission when he wants to modify or upload data or programmes. You can place the computer in a common area of your home (such as the living room, rather than their bedrooms) so that you can monitor your children’s Internet activities and easily manage the amount of time they spend online.
3. Discuss the risks with your children
Children can be much more trusting than adults as they tend to see the fun in activities first, without realising the risks and dangers involved (and therefore, the perfect targets for sexual predators and scam artists). So, just as you (as a responsible parent) would ensure that your children put on their safety helmets before riding their bicycles, it’s important for you to ensure that your children understand the basic risks they face and what safety precautions they need to take before they start surfing the Internet.
The main risks that children face include:
- Cyber bullying (particularly if they are active users of social networks or do not have many friends in real life);
- Identity theft (particularly if they are not careful about who they share personal information with online);
- Scams (particularly if they have access to confidential family information, such as bank account numbers or online account passwords) via spam or phishing activities; and
- Online grooming (particularly if they are active Internet users and have few friends in real life).
Educate your child on how to stay safe online and encourage them to tell you if they come across anything suspicious or if anybody says or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.
In discussing online safety, you and your children can agree on the websites they can or should not visit. You can also review the safety and security policies of these sites, especially if they require someone to provide personal information (like an email address or home phone number) and make sure you know how that information will be used.
4. Be Proactive
If you’re still not sure whether a certain website is age-appropriate for your children, you can visit a site valuation portal like Commonsense Media. You can also use a website reputation service to verify if a site you intend to visit is truly secure.
For more resources on how to keep your children safe online, check out: