Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet
The Internet is an excellent resource for children, but it can also pose a lot of dangers for them. The dangers range from cyber bullies to cyber predators that can all taint a child's innocence. Here are a few things you can do to protect your child from harm on the Internet.
Out in the Open
Children should not have Internet-connected computers in their bedrooms, regardless of their age. Place the computer out in the open in a family space that's regularly used. The living room, family room and kitchen are two good choices. The lack of privacy makes it less likely for a child to do anything he or she shouldn't be doing online. A public space also makes it easier for you to see what they're doing, if they're visiting chat rooms and how long they're using any social media. A computer placed in a public space can also make it easier for a child to ask questions or get your help with even basic homework-related questions.
Limit Internet Usage Time
Restrict the times your child is able to use the Internet. Let your child know how long he or she has to use the computer so they know to spend their time wisely. There are programs available that automatically disconnects access to the Internet after the set amount of time has expired. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may offer this service for free, but purchased programs may work better and be more difficult for your child to hack into. NetNanny, K-9 Web Protection (free), Safe Access and CyberPatrol.
These same programs usually allow you to create settings that filter content based on users. If you were to set up an account for little Johnny that limits his time, you can also set it up so he doesn't have access to chat rooms, porn sites or any site you decide is inappropriate. Other examples of filtering programs include ADL Hate Filter (focuses on content that promotes hatred and bigotry, but also filters porn), The Internet Filter (allow you to customize what you want to monitor and block) and Safe Eyes (can also block emails and instant messages).
Monitor the Sites They Visit
If you're still not sure the filters are doing their job and want to make sure your child hasn't discovered a way around them, you can install monitoring software to see exactly what your child is doing online. Businesses have been known to use this type of software to monitor what their employees are doing with their Internet privileges. You won't need the business software and often filtering software will offer this service as well. SpectorSoft is one program to consider.
Teach Them About Internet Safety
Teach your child that the Internet can be a dangerous place and what they can do to protect themselves. For example, they should not give out their email addresses or any other personal information. They should never agree to meet an online friend. Don't allow them to use a web cam without direct supervision from a parent. Teach your child not to use his or her real name in any online posts or clubs.