When kids use the Internet the educational advantages are endless. The Internet is used by schools, universities, libraries, businesses and more. The Internet is a virtual encyclopedia.
And you don't have to be a computer geek to use the Internet. It is incredibly easy. Use it for homework, communicating with friends, computer games, on-line games, shopping and even business.
Many schools now use the computer as a way to communicate to families. Parents can access their child's grades, class assignments and attendance. Upcoming events, announcements and individual school calendars are also posted on their school webpage as well as their school profile. Any child who is old enough to punch in a few letters on the keyboard can literally access the world.
With all the wonderful advantages the computer and Internet offers, it is important for parents to know Internet safety.
The Internet gives great benefits to everyone...most of all children. And with all of its advantages, it has disadvantages which can create dangers for children.
It is critical that every parent and every childcare giver know everything there is to know about the Internet and the possible hazards it creates for children. Learn how to deal with them...learn the Internet rules.
There are lots of "rules" on how kids (and parents) can use the Internet but the most important rule is that parents and kids agree to a set of criteria.
Online Safety Guidelines for Parents
By taking responsibility for your children's online computer use, parents can greatly minimize any potential risks of being online. Make it a family rule to:
- Never give out identifying information -- home address, school name, or telephone number -- in a public message such as chat or bulletin boards, and be sure you're dealing with someone that both you and your child know and trust before giving it out via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or unlisting your child's name if your service allows it.
- Get to know the services your child uses. If you don't know how to log on, get your child to show you. Find out what types of information it offers and whether there are ways for parents to block out objectionable material.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child.
- Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.
- If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot with a parent present!
- Should you become aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843-5678 or visiting the CyberTipLine online. You should also notify your online service.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself. Thus, someone indicating that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could in reality be a 40-year-old man.
- Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that's "too good to be true" probably is. Be very careful about any offers that involve you coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer. A child or teenager's excessive use of online services or bulletin boards, especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem. Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.
- Be sure to make this a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child's bedroom. Get to know their "online friends" just as you get to know all of their other friends.
The most important thing to remember is that when you’re online in any kind of a public forum, you’re out in public and anyone can read whatever you post. You should never post anything on the Internet that you wouldn’t want known to the public at large. You should also remember that people you meet in cyberspace might not be who they seem to be.
1. Keep Your Identity Private
- If you’re in any type of public forum, avoid giving out your full name, your mailing address, your telephone number, the name of your school, or any other information that could help someone determine your actual identity. The same applies to your family and friends. Never reveal anything about other people that could possibly get them into trouble.
2. Never Get Together with Someone You "Meet" Online
- The biggest danger to your safety is if you get together with someone you “meet” online. Remember, you never know for certain if people you meet online are who they say they are. If you do feel it’s appropriate to meet with someone, discuss it with your parents and never go to the meeting by yourself. Arrange to meet in a public place like a coffee shop or mall that you, not just the other person, are familiar and comfortable with, and never go alone. The safest procedure is to have your parents talk with the parents of the other person and for both of you to bring your parents along on the first meeting.
3. Never Respond To E-Mail, Chat Comments, Instant Messages Or Other Messages That Are Hostile, Belligerent, Inappropriate Or In Any Way Make You Feel Uncomfortable
- It isn't your fault if you get a message that is mean or in any way makes you feel uncomfortable. If you get such a message, don't respond. Instead, show it to your parents or a trusted adult to see if there is anything you can do to make it stop. Sending a response just encourages the person.
4. Talk with your Parents about Their Expectations and Ground Rules for Going Online
- It's important that you and your parents are on the same "channel" when it comes to your online activities. This includes when you can go online, how long you can stay online, and what activities you can do online. Communicating with your parents doesn't mean that you have to give up your privacy. It just means that you come to an agreement based on mutual trust and understanding. While you're at it, perhaps you can help your parents better understand the Internet, what it can be used for, and how it is helpful for teens.
- I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
- I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the service provider.
- I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
- I will not give out my Internet password to anyone (even my best friends) other than my parents.
- I will check with my parents before downloading or installing software or doing anything that could possibly hurt our computer or jeopardize my family's privacy.
- I will be a good online citizen and not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law.
- I will help my parents understand how to have fun and learn things online and teach them things about the Internet, computers and other technology.
Rules one through six are adapted from the brochure Child Safety on the Information Highway bySafeKids.Com
founder Larry Magid. (© 2004 National Center for Missing and Exploited Children). Rules 7 through 10 are copyrighted by Larry Magid (© 2005)
Sign a Child/Parent Internet Safety Agreement between you and your kids.
Too much time or too little time is subjective. Only you will know for sure and each child is different. Some kids really use the computer for studying, emailing their friends and playing games, while others spend hours surfing, going into chat rooms and even going into adult web sites that are not appropriate for children.
If your child tends to research homework, they can spend hours on the Internet and if they are seriously into games and chat rooms they can spend days on the Internet. Kids are great at switching from one screen to another, making it difficult for you to know what they're really doing.
Once you know the facts and rules, and your child's needs on the Internet, you will create your own timeline as to how long your child will spend on it.
However, when children spend too much time on the computer they tend to neglect their studies, chores and social activities. It is very easy for children to loose track of time while on computer. Therefore, it is important for you as a parent to provide limits to their computer use.How to know what your children are doing online
Understand that kids are very curious about a variety of subjects. Often they will use the Internet to view material that is only appropriate for adults.
Although you want to respect their privacy, you need to know what they do with their time every day...especially on the Internet. Learn how your kids surf the Web. Sit down with them and ask them to show you the sites they surf. Get familiar with their patterns of use and time spent online. Learn the potential threats that they can be exposed to and look for changes in behavior. Remember that many mobile phones now offer Internet access.Emails and Chat rooms
Kids love sending and receiving email, instant messaging and the interaction in chat rooms. Be sure you know who they're sending emails to and who they're getting emails from. And be sure you know if they're visiting chat rooms, which ones, and what goes on in those chat rooms.
Chat rooms can be misused. There isn't a chat room on the Internet where you won't find at least one adult sexual predator. It's a fact of life. They masquerade as kids and teens and make indecent proposals ... often luring children and teen to meet them. These meetings are set up for one reason -- to harm children and teens.
Kids and teens need to know that unless they absolutely know the person they are communicating with over the Internet, not to accept everything a person says online at face value. They must understand the online danger they could be in and be alert.Cyber Space Activity
According to a new survey commissioned by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications, only about half of the parents surveyed were monitoring their kids' online activity daily or weekly. The other half of the parents said that they don't have or don't know if they have software on their computer(s) capable of monitoring where their teens go online or with whom they interact. Additional findings include:
- 42% of parents don't review the content that their teen(s) are reading and/or writing in chat rooms or instant messages;
- Parents are not familiar with the most common IM shorthand/lingo,i.e. :
- 57% of parents don't know LOL (laughing out loud)
- 68% don't know BRB (be right back)
- 92% were unaware that A/S/L means age/sex/location
- 95% of parents weren't familiar with POS (parents over shoulder) and P911 (parent alert)
- 28% of parents don't know if their teens are speaking with strangers online;
- 30% of parents let their teens use computers in private areas of the home (e.g. bedroom, office).
We all mistype addresses into web browsers and search engines. And our children can too. That mistake can bring us to sites we do not mean to visit.
Stress to your children the importance of typing correct addresses. Discuss rules about ending up on sites that are not appropriate.Communication
Communicate openly with your child about what they do online. By having an open relationship with your children, you can discuss a range of issues such as the kinds of materials, situations, or people they may mistakenly come across. Keep talks low-key and discuss all of the situations that could happen on the Internet.
Be honest, open and comfortable. The more comfortable you are, the more comfortable your child will feel. Openly explain that emailing personal information about themselves to a strange adult on the Internet, or viewing sexually explicit or adult oriented materials are not appropriate and what can happen. By being open and honest, your child won't feel as though they've done something wrong. They should never be afraid of telling you they've visited or emailed someone from these sites.
By discussing these things before they happen, you can prevent your child from being a story in the media.Kids At Risk
If you find any record of inappropriate conversations or pornographic photos do not panic!
Talk calmly to your child about your concerns. If you fear your child is truly in trouble or at risk, seek professional help.
- Immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843-5678 or visiting the CyberTipLine online. You should also notify your online service.
Signs that indicate your children are being abused online:
- If your child becomes secretive about their time online
- Uses computers in other than their own such as at homes of friends, Internet cafes, or libraries
- Uses encryption software
- Downloads files onto discs where you cannot see information
- Displays changes in behavior or acts out sexually
- Becomes withdrawn and loses self-esteem
- If your phone bill or child's cell phone bill is unusually high
- You see unfamiliar phone numbers on your bill (800 numbers do not appear on phone bills)
- Your child disappears while talking on their cell phone
- Kids are very computer savvy and can pretty much figure out protective software, security measures, password changes, etc.
- If you have computer passwords and PIN numbers, measures should be taken to protect those at all costs.
- Sometimes protective software can be disabled. Be sure that it isn't switched off.
- Check that security systems and additional internet accounts have not been added to your computer and that previously installed software hasn't been blocked or diverted.
A middle-school girl was on vacation and a rumor circulated via text messaging, that she had contracted SARS while on a trip to Toronto. When she returned no one at school would talk to her.
And for an overweight Japanese boy who was changing clothes in the school locker room, his pictures had been emailed to all his friends.
These rumors, threats, gossip and humiliation - are nothing new ... but today bullies are starting to move beyond slam books and whisper campaigns to e-mail, websites, chat rooms, and text messaging.
Websites and screen names allow bullies anonymity if they want it and it can be difficult to trace. Now bullies can extend their harassment into their victims' homes and schools.
Kids should not put up with it. They should tell someone they trust ... their parents or teacher -- someone who can find a way to stop it. If kids get upsetting or scary messages, they should document everything by dates; times received and save the emails. This can be reported to the police. As careful as kids should be with giving out their mobile phone numbers ...they should be equally careful giving out their email.Spam
Spam is unsolicited email. It can be annoying and sometimes offensive. Parents should discuss with their kids who they are sending and receiving emails from.
One of the best ways to deal with spam is to not open it and delete it.
Check out merchants privacy policies when purchasing something over the web. When in chat rooms, your child should not allow their personal profile to be published and should not give out their email address ... nor should they ever allow email addresses to be posted on any web site. They should remain as anonymous as possible.
If you have younger children, set up a list of people they can send and receive emails from and block the rest. Ask your Internet Service Provider how to do this.
Firewall and anti-spam software programs are other ways to keep out unwanted emails and spam. You can also set up a spam email address in addition to your regular email address. Give those close to you your private email address and all others the spam email address.Internet Safety Laws
A federal law has been created to help protect your kids while they are using the Internet. It is designed to keep anyone from obtaining your kids' personal information without you knowing about it and agreeing to it first.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites to explain their privacy policies on the site and get parents' consent before collecting or using a child's personal information, such as a name, address, phone number, or social security number. The law also prohibits a site from requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a game or contest.
But even with this law, your child's best online protection is you. By talking to your child about potential online dangers and monitoring his or her computer use, you'll be helping your child to surf the Internet safely.
References and for further information:
If you are often perplexed by the computer terminology or the "lingo" your children use when texting or e-mailing friends, go to the following cyber dictionary. It is a GREAT resource and you might be surprised what you learn!
All information provided was adopted fromDenver Public Schools