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Your kids and the Internet

Apart from the kids themselves, parents should also get involved proactively in order to ensure that their children are not just browsing relevant and reliable websites but also surfing them in the most appropriate manner.  It is a known fact that the World Wide Web is replete with online scams, pornography, Internet viruses, spyware and a host of nefarious predators. Kids should be kept safe from such elements at all points of time. Even a small typographical error can lead a child to an obscene or potentially harmful website! This is where the importance of Internet security comes into the picture. In this context, one must not overlook the participation of both kids and parents in ensuring that the Internet is used in the most appropriate manner – to educate and entertain!

Internet Safety and Parents

When it comes to monitoring the Parents can help to reinforce Internet safety for their young ones through the following steps:

  •  Identifying secure websites, search engines, directories and web portals that are safe to access by kids
  • Checking links to the approved websites for the kids.
  • Constant monitoring the kids’ online activities to ensure safe surfing
  • Reporting malignant online incidents or suspicious online activity on illegal websites
  •  Filtering and blocking software and files available on the common computer
  • Interpreting modern online slangs and acronyms and barring children from using them

It is very important that parents keep a tab on what their children see and listen to on the Internet, who they meet and what they do online, especially on social networking websites and online chat platforms. Should they want, they can also talk to them about their concerns about Internet safety and employ a host of resources to keep them safe from nefarious elements and improper online content. Although there is a law to protect children and their viewing of/ access to adult content, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that prohibits children to use certain websites without parental guidance and approval, parents should also keep a close vigil on the children’s activities on the Internet. While the law aims to acquire parental consent before the children share their personal information such as name, address and personal contact details generally or on sites that require such information in order to give access to children, it is the parents’ responsibility to keep their children away from such websites. Parents can talk to their kids about the potential dangers of using such websites and can monitor their personal computers regularly to ensure that their children are surfing the Internet in a safe and well protected manner.

A few things that parents must take extra caution about include protecting their children from strangers online, cyber-bullying as well as repetitive stress injuries related to the continued use of computers. Alternately, parents can foster engagement in more natural and healthier hobbies that keep young and active minds away from the potential dangers on the Internet.

Although it is quite difficult to ensure that your kids are absolutely safe from the dangers of the cyber space, you certainly can control their access to websites that contain adult material and protect them from online predators. There are various online tools available in the markets today that can help you block certain websites to restrict your kids’ access to them. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also provide the option of parent-control that can help you block certain illicit material coming to your child’s computer. A variety of software that restricts access to certain ‘bad sites’ and filtering programs that prohibit personal information from being shared online are also available to further help you monitor your child’s cyber space safety. Should you want, you can also employ software and programs to track your child’s online activity.

Is Your Child Accessing Improper Online Content?
Although you cannot be around your child 24 x 7 or cannot employ all the tools and software that protect his/her internet safety, there are certain very obvious signs that can tell whether your kid is accessing adulterated or illicit content on the web. For instance, spending long hours on the Internet (Internet addiction) is the most prominent sign that your child is being targeted by an online predator. Also, if your child turns off the monitor the moment you enter his/her room or receives phone calls from unknown people/numbers, especially at night time or you see outgoing calls to unknown numbers in your telephone bill, you must put your guards on. Chances are that your child has breached a critical protocol of Internet safety and you must act in the nick of time to ensure that no further damage is caused, either to your kid or to you.

The Seriousness of the Matter
Sex offences are the worse Internet crimes that can happen, especially with an innocent child. Therefore, teach your child to come and talk to you immediately if he/she receives any pornographic or sexually explicit material such as pictures or emails from online strangers. You must also report this issue to the local police authorities. Such offence is highly criminal and punishable by law and a right step today may save your child a lot of trauma tomorrow.

Some Basic Steps to Protect Your Child’s Internet Safety

  • Be computer savvy and block all dubious or objectionable websites
  • Keep the computer in a common room from where you can monitor your child’s online activity easily
  • Share your child’s email account in order to be able to monitor the mails and messages he/she receives
  • Spend time with your child to teach him/her about proper online behavior
  • Do not allow young children to enter adult chat rooms. Get filtering software installed on the machine to restrict your child from entering such forums.
  • Bookmark your kid’s favorite websites so that they can access them in a matter of a few clicks.
  • Monitor your phone and credit card bills for any unidentified expenses or account charges
  • Ensure that your child is receiving adequate online safety at school or at a friend’s place.
  • Forward threatening messages or obscene  mails to your Internet Service Provider
  • Teach your child never to open messages from unidentified people/ sources.
  • Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
  • Teach your child never to share personal photographs online.
  • Know your child’s screen name
  • Take your child seriously if he/she reports an uncomfortable or scary online activity and report it to your local law enforcement authorities immediately.

Proactive participation in your child’s online activities can ensure that your child is safe from potential Internet dangers and can use the Cyber Space in a secure and efficient manner.

This article by Frank Johnson is the fist in his series on ‘Kids and the Internet’.  Frank is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services. To know more about Internet safety for kids, you may interact with him here

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