The Online Frontier: What Your Kids Need to Know

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Over the past few years, the Internet has become tightly intertwined with our social and professional lives. It is now mandatory for our kids to have Internet access so they may competently complete their school work and research information. Our kids also utilize the Internet to engage with their friends through email, instant chat, and a variety of social media platforms. The Internet is a boundless resource for communication and information retrieval; however, there are some risks attached with your child’s online activities. Here are the best ways to prepare your children for a safe, online experience:

Involvement

Embark upon your child’s venture into the online world, hand in hand, with an open mind and willingness to stay engaged and supportive. Just as you would be aware of your child’s social life in the real world, you must keep an eye on his or her online activities. Sit down with your son or daughter when you decide it is appropriate for him or her to sign up for his or her first email address or social media account. Make the agreement that the two of you will share the password to the site as a safety precaution.

Be honest with your child about the potential risks that are of concern — explain the various elements of cyber-bullying, identity theft, and strangers with ill intent. Consider walking them through what both you and they can do to protect against these online dangers. Specifically discuss with your child what it means to be private, responsible and genuine; utilize the precept “don’t do or say it online, if you wouldn’t say or do it in real life.” Keep the family computer in a visual place where there is frequent foot traffic in your home. If your children’s computer activity is out in the open, they are less likely to engage in inappropriate activities. Safekids.com has a list of specific rules you can discuss with your child in regards to online safety.

Content

Because there is a wide array of adult content on the Internet, there is a greater likelihood that children will be exposed to unsuitable or harmful content. Install a filtering software on your family computer, or your children’s personal computer, as a means to protect their online experience. Net Nanny and PureSight PC are two programs that allow you to monitor your kid’s online activities and protect them from pornography, online predators, cyber bullying, social network dangers and Internet addiction. These programs will identify, classify and block undesirable websites and will log the history of computer and Internet activity. With Net Nanny, you can set access by specific keywords and websites for each computer user and will be alerted through email when your child visits inappropriate sites. In order to maintain your children’s trust, have an honest conversation with them about your involvement in their online life.

Online Interaction

The online interaction your child has with his or her friends and schoolmates could be both positive and negative. Cyberbullying has emerged as a malignant byproduct of social media, which has led to baneful and even fatal incidents amongst children. Explain to your children what cyberbullying entails and how to navigate any bullying situation they may happen upon. Stopbullying.gov classifies the various roles kids may have in a bully situation, which ranges from kids who “bully,” “are bullied,” “assist,” “reinforce,” “defend” or are the “outsiders” who witness. This information hopes to inform kids and parents that all children who witness bullying are involved, therefore have the power to prevent it.