Internet access is a blessing and a curse for most parents. While their children can research schoolwork, play games, socialize with friends and keep up to date with news, the internet also harbours dangers that many parents don’t know how to control. Whether it’s monitoring the content your children have access to, protecting their identity or preventing cyber bullying, there is much you can do to protect your children on the net. Make sure that you and your children know the dangers of the working on the net and how to be safe.
Explain to your child that passwords or personal information is private and is not to be shared with anyone on the net. Passwords are never to be shared for any reason. Sharing personal information or information on what they will be doing today should be reserved for face-to-face interactions with friends and family members.
Encourage your children not to chat with people on the internet that they don’t know. This includes accepting strangers as friends on social network sites. Where possible, it’s best that you are on all your child’s social networking sites so that you can monitor what they are posting for safety.
Children should avoid using their full names or disclosing personal information such as birth dates, addresses or phone numbers. Teach them to always log off when they are done and to change their passwords frequently. Make sure that they don’t keep their passwords written down anywhere.
Sites that require users to be over 13 or over 18 should be off-limits for children. Set firm rules about which sites your children can visit before they use the internet. You can check your browser history to ensure that they are sticking to your boundaries, although it must be noted that items can be deleted from browser histories.
Unfortunately, cyber bullying most often involves classmates, friends or people that your child already knows. It’s easy to say that they should ignore bullies, but that advice is rarely taken as they attempt to defend themselves in front of their peers. The first step to preventing bullying is to get your child to talk about it. Ask them to show you the offending messages. One of the biggest deterrents for children to tell their parents about bullies is their fear that their parents will take action that may embarrass them or exacerbate the problem.
It’s important that you and your child develop a coping strategy together. There are many ways in which you can stand up to bullies, report their behaviour or take legal action. Always save offending correspondence to show as evidence.