Kids & the Internet: What Parents Should Know

The Internet.

There's no escaping it. Computers are everywhere and on those computers is access to nearly anything your heart desires. Most adults have enough common sense (notice I said MOST) to use the Internet safely, but our children aren't blessed with such experience and wisdom.

Here are some things that parents need to know about children and the Internet.

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Using the Internet comes with risks, especially for teenagers, who often go online unsupervised. These risks include exposure to inappropriate material that may be hateful, violent, or sexual in nature. It's very easy to come across such things on the Internet.

With the advent of social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, children may encounter (and be targeted by) cyberbullies who may stalk and harass them. Children, not knowing any better, may also click "download" when a pop-up box shows up on their screen, possibly downloading a virus and allowing hackers to gain access to information stored on that computer.

While these risks seem frightening and may make you want to restrict your child's access to such materials, there are some guidelines to follow to reduce the risks and increase the safety of our children online. It's a good idea to set reasonable guidelines for children who use the Internet.

*Make sure that your children know not to ever, EVER give out any identifying information to people online. This information includes a home address, real name, email address, school name, telephone number, or credit card information.

*Become familiar with the Internet services your children uses - have your child show you if you don't know what a site is.

*Educate your children so that they know that people on the Internet are not necessarily who they claim to be. We adults instinctively know this, but children are often more trusting.

*Ensure that your child knows not to arrange a face-to-face meeting with anyone from the Internet without parental permission and/or supervision.

*Let your children know that they should never, ever respond to any obscene, rude, suggestive, or threatening messages. If they receive such messages, tell your child to alert you immediately.

*Research some blocking, filtering and ratings applications for your computer.

*Post the family rules for Internet usage in an area where everyone can see it.

*Consider moving the computer from any bedrooms to a common family area.

What other tips should parents know about their children and the Internet?

 

Image via INPIVIC/Flickr

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