The Internet has given rise to the digital age, in which the personal computer can be used online to gain valuable information at the click of a mouse. You may get the day’s headline news online, or help your child research a school project. However, your child’s personal online time could also include multi-player gaming, social networking and social games, streaming videos, music, and television programs, slide-show e-mails, digital photographs and images, and much more.
Children are curious by nature, and they may want to explore all the Internet has to offer. But the Internet can be a very hostile, child unfriendly environment, and your child needs to explore it safely – with your guidance and supervision.
Here are five simple ways you can manage your child’s personal Internet use:
1. Locate the computer in a common area of your home. Explain to your child that while you trust them, there are millions of unknown people online, many of whom have negative attitudes and bad intentions. Now is a good time to start a dialogue with your child about what kinds of materials you consider off-limits, what types of misconduct occur online and the dangers of revealing personal information.
2. Be a fly on the wall. Listening to your child and watching as they interact on the web is the best way to hone in on what they’re actually doing. Telltale signs like long periods of using the headphones, or fast, repetitive typing are your cues to check-in. You may find that what your child is seeing or hearing is undesirable. Communicate this with your child, and let him or her know that you reserve the right to filter and/or block such content from the computer (even if it makes you unpopular). Remember, you’re the parent.
3. Utilize Internet content filters. Parental control software that filters to your child’s online sessions can keep offensive content away from their eyes and ears. Affordable, comprehensive software, which can also safeguard your child’s e-mail, is available on the GuardChild products page. Think of it as an investment in your piece of mind – and your child’s safety.
4. Know the language of the land. Abbreviated text messaging may look like a foreign language to you, but if you see “g2g, pos” in your child’s chat stream, you should know that it translates to: “got to go, parent over shoulder.” We have a full glossary of all chat/text abbreviations that kids are using today – sign up as a GuardChild member (it’s free!), and you’ll get access to this valuable information. You might be surprised to know what your child is talking about!
5. Adopt a schedule. Time management may be the simplest and most effective tool to help your child use the Internet safely. Once you know how your child uses the Internet, you can better gauge how much time to allot.
Continuing to communicate about what the standards of Internet use are in your home will go a long way to keeping your child safe online. You can express concerns to your child about having any sensitive or “private” conversations in a public forum. The public domain of the Internet is easily lost on most children. After all, surfing the web is a solitary process, and today’s customizable accounts and websites often combine to give children a false sense of intimacy.
Your child is not ready for social networking – or even e-mail – if he or she does not fully understand the cardinal rule of all online communications: If you wouldn’t say it or show it offline, don’t post or write it online.