The internet is a fantastic way for us to communicate, quickly and easily and is questionably responsible for changing our lives over the last 20 years. There is no doubt is can help us gain knowledge, communicate, bank, shop, sell, make money, be creative and to express ourselves. However, for every good there has to be a bad and the internet is the same. No matter how we interact as human beings there are still those among us who are evil at heart and prey on the innocent.
We have to think the unspeakable before we can protect our children and there is no better place to try and hide than behind a telephone line or satellite dish with hundreds of miles separating us.
I was at a talk at my son's school the other night and I am still amazed at how many parents don't know what their children get up to on their computers. It's not because we are not concerned about our children it's because of the technology, we are scared of it and don't have the inclination to learn about it: "˜it's for the young'. Tell me this; if you had to learn how to use computers and the internet to save your child's life, would you do it? That's how dangerous the internet could be, so it's better to learn as much as you can.
Here are 10 ways to keep your child safe online
- The most important thing to do is talk with your children about safety online and how important it is for them to talk with you about anything that happens whilst on the internet. It is important for your children to understand that you are trying to protect them and talk with them about some things that have happened in real life to other children and how you want to prevent this happening to them. Advise your children that you don't want to invade in their privacy but you will be keeping tabs on what they do online from now on.
- Make sure you are the administrator on the computer and create another user account for your children which you will have control over. This means your children will be restricted as to what they can view and download.
- The first thing to do is put a filter on what your children can and can't access online and what type of sites they can view. Windows Vista has a parental control built in however there is other software out there which can help to keep children safe online, the most popular is "˜Net Nanny "˜.
- Learn what your children are learning. Get to know sites like Bebo, Facebook, MySpace, and create a profile on them to get to know them better.
- Learn how to use MSN messenger, AOL Messenger, Google talk etc. Insist that your children record their conversations so you can scan them at a later date. This sounds very intrusive but I would much rather keep my children safe and have them think I am being a pain. Learn how to record conversations in these messenger services and check on them weekly. You don't need to read every detail of the conversation, you are there t protect, not to spy. I have advised my children they can still talk how they normally talk on these messenger services and they will not get into trouble, within agreeable limits of course.
- Keep your child's computer in a communal area within the house. If locked in a room there are unscrupulous people who can get your child to do something that they don't want to if they know they are alone in a bedroom.
- Remember that older children are curious about sex and relationships and the internet can be a safe way to explore this. If you find inappropriate content on the computer and it is not illegal and disturbing don't worry too much. Try and remember what you were like as a teenager and how curious you were.
- Check the sites your children are visiting by clicking on Control + H whilst in the browser they usually use. This will give you an idea about their surfing habits.
- It's not so common these days but make sure if your children enter chat rooms that they do not stumble in over 18's cat lines. Also advise your children not to chat in the private rooms available on these sites, especially with people they do not know.
- Know who to report any abuse that may happen on the internet. The first port of call is obviously the police if it is serious enough. However there are websites you can go to report abuse:
Other sites you might be interested in: