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Monday, November 13, 2017

9 Tips For Keeping Your Child Safe On the Internet

Photo by Lucélia Ribeiro (Flickr)

October 29 is Internet Day, but personally, my girls and I can't imagine life on any day without this technology that gives us access to information, friends, and the world. The Internet can open doors to scary and dangerous things, though, including identity theft, predators, pornography, and fake news. Consider these nine tips as we teach our kids to stay safe and be responsible while using the Internet.

Place Devices in a Common Area

My older daughter often asks for a computer in her bedroom, but I insist that it remains in a common area. This way, I can answer questions, talk about information, and successfully guide my kids as they use the Internet.

Know What They're Looking at

Now that my girls are a bit older, I don't stand over their shoulders as they go online. I do, however, frequently check their devices' browsing histories and monitor their social media and email accounts. With this information, I can initiate conversations about why they visit certain sites and ways they can protect themselves.

Teach Them to Protect Personal Information

An identity thief or sexual predator can use your child's name or photo to find them in real life. I often emphasize that my girls cannot publicly share personal information online, including their name, phone number, address, email, passwords, school, or photos. Also, they may only communicate online with people they know.

Block Explicit Material

While researching the history of her favorite toys for a school project, my daughter typed "legs" instead of "Legos." The results? Several porn sites popped up. That one misspelling prompted me to turn on the computer's parental controls, use Google SafeSearch, and check out the blocking options provided by CyberPatrol and other security sites.

Respond Properly to Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is defined as threatening behavior that occurs online and can include intimidation, name-calling, and body-shaming. I tell my girls not to respond to any cyberbullying messages and to report any bullying incidents to me.

Recognize Unsafe Websites

Unsafe websites can lead your kids to harmful content or install spyware, malware, or viruses on their device. In general, websites that end in .edu, .org, or .gov are the most reputable and safest. Check the color of the address bar, too, since it can turn yellow or red in some browsers if the site is unsafe. Consider bookmarking your children's favorite sites to promote safe browsing.

Learn to Spot Fake News

At dinner the other night, my younger daughter shared that the queen of England had died. She saw the story online and thought it was true. Our conversation opened the door to a discussion about how to spot fake news, and I reminded my girls to ask themselves a few questions as they evaluate what they read online.

  • Are other news sites reporting the same story?
  • Does it link to real news or reputable websites?
  • Is the news current?
  • Is the source itself reputable?
  • Is the writing mostly error-free?
  • Is the article satirical, a joke, or an opinion?

Invite Conversations About Internet Use

My girls know they can talk to me about anything, including their internet usage. If they ever feel uncomfortable online, see a friend being bullied, or wonder about the safety of certain websites, they know I will listen and not immediately overreact or suspend their online privileges.

Sign an Internet Usage Contract

An Internet usage contract gives your kids another layer of protection and shows them how to use the Internet responsibly. It includes details like how much time your kids can spend online, what sites they can use, and consequences for breaking the rules.

The Internet offers our kids nearly limitless access to information. Let's use these nine tips as we teach our kids how to be responsible online and use the Internet safely. In what other ways can we teach online safety?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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