The Internet is full of websites, games and information for children. Used appropriately, it can be an amazing resource for providing kids with unique learning experiences and endless entertainment. However, used inappropriately, it can become a dangerous place. It’s important for parents and educators to teach children how to use the Internet responsibly in order to maximize its potential rather than putting them at risk.
1. Keep the Computer in a Public Location
Computers used by children should always be visible by adults. At home, this means putting the computer in a public location such as the living room or family room. At school, it means arranging computers in a way that allows a teacher to see what every student is doing. This helps prevent children from accessing inappropriate content on their own and helps catch inappropriate content when it first appears.
2. Role-Play Possible Scenarios
Just like you role-play scenarios to help children learn important skills and concepts, you can role-play safe Internet usage. Pretend to be someone asking for a child’s personal information online and ask a child how best to respond. Tell a child you accidentally clicked on an inappropriate website and have him explain what should be done. Going through these scenarios before they happen will help a child respond appropriately if they happen in real life.
3. Use Privacy Settings
If your child is old enough to use a social networking website, go through the privacy settings with your child. Explain what you are doing as you fix the settings to limit who can contact a child or what portions of the site a child can access.
4. Ignore Pop-up Ads
Visit some websites with children that you know have pop-up ads and talk to them about the danger of clicking on these ads. Explain that ads advertising something for “free” usually are too good to be true and could end up costing a lot of money or invite a virus on to the computer.
5. Never Enter Chat Rooms
Not all chat rooms are dangerous places, but many are and, in most cases, there are no reasons for children to use them. Talk to your children about what chat rooms are and their potential dangers. If children want to be able to talk to others online, set up accounts designed specifically for children to talk to friends and family members.
6. Check with an Adult First
Encourage your child to check with an adult before visiting a website that seems fishy, downloading a file or responding to a message. Often children inadvertently stumble upon compromising websites and files and you should reward them for coming to you rather than punish them for accessing inappropriate material, especially if it was an accident.
7. Only Visit Allowed Websites
For younger children, introduce the Internet in doses and only allow them to visit specific websites. A five-year-old does not really need access to Google or a wide selection of websites. You can easily set up a toolbar or icons on your desktop that lead directly to websites your child enjoys. If your child asks about other websites, explain why she cannot visit them, even just saying she is not quite old enough yet. Best Kids Websites is the perfect place to search for high quality and child-safe sites that have been screened by educators.
8. Let Children Explore, Within Reason
As children get older, limiting them to specific websites and installing filters may only encourage them to explore what they are not allowed to see. Instead of blocking websites for older children, allow them to explore some on their own. Sit beside them and explain why a website may be dangerous or a certain type of file should not be accessed.
9. Don’t Rely on Filters
While this is more of a lesson for parents, you must learn not to rely on filters. Every filter has its flaws and there are ways for children to circumvent them. You must be proactive as a parent and monitor your child’s Internet access, rather than relying on a program to do it for you.
10. Talk with Your Children
Talking to your children about the dangers of the Internet may be the best way to teach them to be safe online. When children understand a little about the dangers that exist and why you have set rules in place, they are more likely to listen and alert you when they encounter something that may not be safe.