These days, as a parent, it’s often the case that your children know more about the internet and computers than you do. But it’s still your duty as a parent or guardian to protect their experiences online. While there is legislation in place that requires children to get a parents permission before giving out sensitive information like address and phone number, among other things. But that doesn’t always happen – so just as with pretty much everything else with your child – it doesn’t hurt to be proactive.
What follows is some basic advice for making sure that the internet experience of your younger child is safe and secure (and they don’t inadvertently end up charging your credit cards a ton of money).
Become Computer Literate Yourself
It is still your job as a parent to make sure that your child’s experience online is safe and secure – but how can you do that if your kid needs to show you how to change the internet settings on your computer? If you aren’t too tech-savvy, enroll in a class at the local community college or high school. You’re going to want to make sure you are able to know how to:
- Set up a separate “profile” on your computer for each child, with only you as an administrator
- Manage and block websites that your child has access to
While younger children generally will not try and find ways around your internet restrictions, as children get older, they might attempt to get beyond your restrictions if they find them unfair – for example, if you don’t allow them to set up any social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, myspace, etc) or use chatrooms. So be prepared to enforce and defend your decisions – which is where our second piece of advice comes in handy.
Educate Your Children About The Dangers
The internet is not a safe place – not intrinsically. Sensitive data is not always secure and once something is posted on the internet it’s always going to be there – even if the profile or image is deleted.
Some basic ground rules and dangers to warn your children about might include:
- Never complete an online profile – don’t give out address, phone number, photos or even their real name.
- Warn children of people who contact them and and interested in meeting face-to-face.
- Make sure they know they can (and should) talk to you if anything happens on the internet that makes them feel uncomfortable.
You’re going to want to get involved with your child’s internet experience to make sure that things are safe. Especially with younger children, there are definitely things that may seem innocent to them that may not actually be. Some guidelines for getting involved in your child’s internet experience include:
- Keeping the computer in a common area.
- Share an email account with your child – or make sure that you have the password to their email account to monitor for unsolicited emails.
- Bookmark your child’s favorite sites for easy access.
- Monitor credit cards and phone bills for unfamiliar charges.
- Disable “cookies” so that a child can’t inadvertently process a credit card charge because all the necessary data is already stored.
These are some of the most basic things you could (and should) be doing to keep your child and your child’s identity safe on the internet – this is the “don’t take candy from strangers” lesson for the digital era, and you want your children to understand it without having to learn it the hard way.
Alison Waters is a freelance writer who works with a company that offers IT project management and hardware support – so that if you’re a small business owner and your kid inadvertently pulls all the plugs, they could still recover your data. She hopes that no child is the target of an internet predator.
- Parenting Skills You Should Develop (THEVAGABONDVOYAGE.COM)