Note: This is an on going part of a look at six issues that we face in keeping our children and students safe online. We’ll be looking at the issue, discussing some solutions and recommending some free and commercial software that can help protect the children you work with online.
The issue: General Concerns
Every parent has areas that they feel strongly about. Some common issues can be limiting online gaming time, preventing sites in areas such as weapons, drugs, chatting, and other topics that you may deem inappropriate for your child
- Clear, simple, easy-to-read house rules should be posted on or near the monitor. - Without overreacting, establish clear and reasonable rules for computer use in your home and outside your home. Limit the time and the hours of the day your child can participate in online activities. Make sure you create, explain and implement consequences for breaking the rules. - Internet accounts and profiles should be in your name and you should control passwords and screen names. Help your child choose a screen name that is nondescript. Do not allow children to have personal profiles because these can often be easily accessed by predators. - Know who your children exchange e-mail with. If they have a "buddy list", check it often for changes. - Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Be supportive of the educational and fun uses of technology and spend time exploring the Internet with your child. Work to establish an atmosphere of trust within your family, encouraging your children to tell you about their online activities. - Have your children show you what they can do online, and visit their favorite sites. - Have your children use child-friendly search engines when completing homework. - Talk to your children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it's not their fault if they see something upsetting. Remind children to tell a trusted adult if they see something that bothers them online. - Get to know your child's "online friends" just as you get to know all of their other friends. Ask about who is on their buddy list & whom they talk to most frequently. This way you get a feel for whom they are talking to.
Some rules to consider implementing in your home
- to tell you immediately if they are threatened, scared or made uncomfortable by someone or something online. (Be sure you respond in a helpful and calm manner.)
- never give out their own or their friends' names, addresses, phone numbers, parents' names, school names, or other personal information.
- never agree to personally meet someone they met online.
- never send photographs online without your permission.
- never fill out forms or questionnaires online without your permission.
- not to enter areas that charge for services without your permission.
- Your child changes the computer screen when you enter the room.
- Your child becomes uneasy or defensive when you are close to their online activity or discussing online behavior. (If you see your child type POS this is a red flag. It means "parent over shoulder".)
- There are unusual charges on credit card statements or phone bills. Be especially alert to charges with seemingly benign identification. Pornographers and con artists are careful not to attract attention by using descriptive names.
- Your child has a sudden influx of cash or gifts.
- You notice changes in your child's behavior or habits (secretiveness, inappropriate knowledge, changes in interests, sleeping problems, etc.)
Teach your children to exercise good judgment in cyberspace, just as they do off line. It is just like taking your child to their first day of school. You can't always be there with them. But you can hold their hand along the way. The same applies online. "Hold their hand" by becoming educated, being open, building trust, and, most important, learning to let go.