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How To Teach Your Children About Internet Safety

There once was a time when typical North American families only had 1 computer per household, making the monitoring of children’s Internet use much less complicated.
As access to the Internet has expanded to include cellphones, tablets, iPods and the like, it has become more common for households to have multiple devices with access to the Internet, making it more difficult than ever for parents to monitor their children’s Internet safety.
When I was growing up, we first had one of those original computers where you played games like Pong, text was green, and it was impossible to use the Internet while someone was on the phone. Our computer was never allowed to leave the home’s main floor, and especially not allowed in our rooms or the basement. This was how my parents made sure that we were never up to anything dangerous on the computer.
I went up to the 9th grade before our household had more than one computer under the same roof at the same time, but technology has evolved so quickly that by the time my younger brother reached the 9th grade, we had 5 laptops in our home and 3 other devices that could also access the Internet. He is now in the 12th grade and the amount of Internet-accessing gadgets per typical household these days is astonishing.

So, what’s a parent in today’s digital age to do in order to monitor their children’s online activities?
Family computer
Here are a few tips I’d like to share:

  • Limit the areas in your home that your child can use the Internet from: As funny as it sounds, this really is a good tip. Knowing that my parents could pop up behind me at any second kept me off of websites like MySpace and Hi-5 growing up; I was on Neopets long after my friends abandoned it for cooler websites where they could converse with any and everybody from around the web. Quite a few went on to develop online friendships with strangers who claimed to be their age, but thanks to the World Wide Web’s anonymity we’ll never truly know.

 

  • Set a social media age policy: Social media is a very dangerous tool for minors, as their mentalities towards the world are still far too innocent and trusting. A young child who may not be fitting in at school as much as they would like to might create an online persona in an effort to find friends on the Internet. This could really land them in a very compromising position should they happen to trust the wrong people. In extreme cases, school bullying may carry over into the Internet, causing even more trauma.
  • Set time and website limits:  There are some online programs that allow you to veto your children’s internet usage. Windows in particular offers a Family Safety Program that allows you to set time and website restrictions to keep children off specified websites at specified times.

 

  • Teach your children that it’s never okay to meet up with people they’ve met online: This goes back to the first point; when children develop friendships with people they’ve met online, they trust that the stranger on the other side of the screen is exactly who they say they are. This makes children feel comfortable with the idea of meeting in person because the bond they’ve developed leads them to believe that their cyberfriend is harmless. Teach your child that there are people out there who prey on their vulnerability and will use it to gather secrets, and will make them feel guilty if they refuse to meet in person.

Internet safety is a very tangled web nowadays as it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor your children’s browsing habits. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to ensuring a safe online experience for your children, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try your best to educate them on the dangers and best practices.

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