Parent’s Guide to Keeping Children Cyber-Safe
Keeping kids safe is on the top of most parents’ list, and becomes particularly challenging with respect to the internet. For starters, the basics are as easy as remembering that what you wouldn’t tell a stranger face to face or on the telephone, should be applied to internet chats and requests for info as well. But as the internet becomes more dynamic, so do the ways children can become endangered by active predators and damaging information, to include questionable content, emails and inappropriate images.
Remind your children, that personal information about themselves and their family, like where they live should never be given out to strangers. No matter how trust-worthy the stranger may seem. Remind them that sometimes, the person that they are chatting with may be dishonest and that they could be talking to an adult, instead of a kid their own age. It is important to be concise with your children, if you want to keep their attention. Stick to the facts; don’t hold back out of fear of frightening them. Most children can handle truth of this nature, and wouldn’t you want your child to be informed enough to make a good decision when faced with a potential threat like an experienced adult predator in a chat room, or making a comment that could become a liability and follow them through adulthood?
But not all threats present themselves so obviously; some may come as requests for information via a pop-up window, for instance, insisting that a personal address, phone number or even directions to one’s home are required for chat room participation or access to a particular website. Other threats may come as indiscreet input online that could make the rounds in the cyber-world and come back with a vengeance damaging a child’s reputation. Input that could instigate inappropriate content of a frightening or sexual nature to include images and email invites, too viewing pornography or engaging in some way (read harmful!) with strangers.
Remember, that as a responsible adult, it’s ok to initiate parental controls that can prevent this kind of potentially irreparable damage to a child’s reputation or person. The internet, for one, has a host of software to choose from, that is specifically designed to filter and track computer usage. This makes it easier to safely monitor a child’s social networking, and protect children from inappropriate images and content.
Keeping children safe starts with a healthy respect for the consequences of information exchange on the internet, with facts that will help children make better choices in that interaction when an adult isn’t nearby to intervene. Decisions about who they chat with, what information they’ll divulge and what is appropriate as they engage others socially or offer personal input is important. It’s equally important that parents not be afraid to exercise their parental responsibilities and rights to protect family, reputation and personal effects, by appropriating parental controls and safety measures such as software that will filter out potential content, images and access that your children can do without.