A safety guide to help parents and children navigate the Internet

A safety guide to help parents and children navigate the Internet

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There are ways to make a child’s Internet experience safer. Computers, tablets like the iPad, smart phones, and some game devices can access the Internet. Most have parental control settings that can limit a child’s exposure while online.

Internet providers and software companies have information on the safe use of their products. Search engines like Google and Bing can be used to learn how to protect yourself and your family.

Following are some recommendations for parents gleaned from a variety of sources.

1. The computer or other device with Internet access should be used in an open area where Internet browsing can be monitored, not in a child’s room. You want them to know you’re in the room.

2. Set clear expectations for your child, based on age and maturity. Assure your children that you know you can count on them to use the Internet responsibly. Write down your rules and place them next to the computer.

3. Set up your computer so that each member of the household has their own user account. Keep your own record of the children’s passwords.

4. Restrict the use of social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace and photo sharing sites to children who show a mature understanding of the rules and implications of being on the Internet. What they put out on the Internet is something they can’t change. Many colleges and businesses search the Internet for information on applicants.

5. Share computer time with your child. Talk with your child and discuss what they like to do on the Internet and what is considered safe.

6. Stay involved with your child’s school. Keep in touch with your child’s teachers and counselors. Find out what their limits are and why. If trouble is brewing among students online, it probably started at school.

7. Talk to other parents about how they deal with their children and whether they are aware of any Internet-related issues.

8. Use the operating system’s parental controls to limit the websites children can access. On Macs, go to system preferences-parental controls, on i devices go to settings-general-restrictions. These are not a substitute for supervision and communication.

9. Tell your child that you are limiting his or her access and why. Remind her that you are keeping her safe. Tell her that protecting her is your job as a parent.

10. Ask your child about bullying at school or online. Assure him that you won’t try to fix the problem without talking to him first. Talk to your child about being kind even on the Internet and about why it is not okay to bully other children, online or in person.

12. Remind them that talking to strangers is not allowed, even on the computer: people who introduce themselves on the Internet are often not who they say they are. Kids are naturally trusting. Don’t assume your child knows everything about the Internet or knows more than you.

13. Instruct your child to never give out personal information online, including her full name, gender, age, school, address, teams or photographs. Let them know that whatever they put on the Internet may be seen by people they don’t know and more significantly by people they do know, like friends or parents.