- consider that there are websites with inappropriate content for children;
- understand their children’s skills and knowledge on the use of internet;
- recognize the likelihood of reducing online risks before deciding which place (environment) is more suitable for their children to access the internet.
Internet has a great potential as a development and empowerment tool for children and youth, as well in assisting them in finding things suitable for their needs. Teaching kids how to behave responsibly and positively online should be one of the main objectives for parents.
Presented below are some tips and advice for parents in relation to the protection measures they should take and things they should pay attention to in order to keep their children safe online:
- Move the computer to your living room
- Keep the computer in the living room and position the monitor in such a way that it can be easily seen from multiple angles when your child goes online. However, if there is more than one electronic device enabling internet access used in your home,you should tread carefully because persisting that everyone should go online in the same room and at the same time can cause resentments.
- Try to stickaround as much as possible at times when your children go online, or consider using monitoring programs such as the “Parental Control”.
- Beware, as your children get older they will ask for more privacy when using the internet. They are often able to make this happen by using a laptop or other portable electronic devices and wireless internet access. In such cases, it becomes increasingly difficult to monitor your children’s online activities.
- Install and update antivirus and protection software
- Make sure that your computer has a protection and antivirus program (firewall) installed, and that it is functional and updated.
- Beware, protection and antivirus programs are not always effective and the only means of protection.
- Teach children how to use and update these programs.
- Start talking to your children as soon as possible
- Use daily opportunities to begin conversations with your children about internet usage. Do not wait for them to begin the conversation, even if they are very close to you.
- Once a child begins to use a computer, cell phone or any other electronic device with internet access, parents should talk to him/her about how they should behave and communicate online.
- It is better if you talk with your child about online safety before someone else does this.
4. Create an open and suitable environment for talking to your children
- Children always reach outto their parents for help. So, be supportive and positive in this regard. Listen to them carefully and patiently and be considerate of their feelings.
- Be patient. Most children will need to hear the same information or advice over and over.
- Communicating openly with your children is very important, therefore, work on it. Do not react harshly when your children share their experiences with you, especially when you learn that your child has done something inappropriate while online.
- Talk regularly to your children about what they use the internet for and whom they communicate with online. Encourage your children to tell you if they come across anything that makes them feel threatened or concerned.
- Teach your children about how people online are often not who they claim to be. Offenders often exploit chat rooms to come in contact with children and in many cases they hide behind various nicknames.
- Thank your children for their trust and convince them that they should report abusers.
5. Establish rules for internet and cell phone usage
- Discuss, set and agree on a list of rules for internet and cell phone usage. This list of rules must contain rules on how and when children can use the internet and phone. Some of these rules could cover thefollowing aspects:
- whether your children should or should not have access to the internet;
- how often they can use it;
- what materials they can download;
- how shouldthey behave when they encounter inappropriate things;
- how much time they can spend on the phone;
- the times of the day when they can use the internet on the phone (i.e. not late at night)
- When you develop this list of rules, pay special attention to privacy, age restrictions and websites with inappropriate content for children.
6. Get familiar with the websites your children visit
- Get familiar with what your children do online and periodically check the sites your children visit.
- Understand how children use their personal electronic devices (cell phones, video games and other devices) which have access to the internet. When it comes to the use of such devices, safety considerations should be similar to the ones applicable to ordinary computers.
- Parents need to know how these personal electronic devices work and what they serve for.
7. Review websites features
- Make sure that the filters, blocks and monitoring programs are sufficient for safe internet use.
- It is recommended that parents discuss the reasons and the need for monitoring programs,and keeping the password to the program secret, with their children.
- Keep credit cardsin a secure place and do not share the passwords (PIN) for these cards. Keep in mind that when children begin to make online purchases, chances are they will use these credit cardswithout their parents consent.
- Make sure that there is an age restriction setting in place for online item or service purchases.
- Block access to websites with inappropriate content and services for children.
- Check whether you can delete or change your account in websites. If this is not possible, then ask your children not to use the site or block access to the site.
- Monitor advertisements which are inappropriate for children, since they can encourage children to get in contact with strangers, access dangerous files, exert cyber violence or other similar behaviours.
- Educate children
- Explain to your children some of the most basic rules and guidelines on internet use. It is important for children to follow these guidelines and share them with others.
- Teach your children not to respond to harsh messages and avoid online conversations about sexual issues.
- Teach your children not to open attachments or links to websites that may appear while they are in chat rooms or when they receive any e-mails from unknown senders.
- Explain to your children that they should never meet in person with people they have met online.
- Encourage children to use internet sites only for communicating with their friends, not with strangers.
- Tell children that people they have met online may not be who they claim they are.
- If the child wants to meet a person he/she has known only online, then a parent or anadult relative can accompany the child to the meeting. Make sure that the first meeting takes place in a crowded public place.
- Make your children aware not to share their personally identifiable information. They need to understand what information should be kept private and not published in public profiles.
- Encourage your children not to post personal information about themselves or their friends (e.g.pictures, cell phone number, home address, or the name of the school they go to) online.
- Explain to your children that they should post only information that you as a parent and others would feel comfortable seeing. Children need to understand that the information posted on the internet cannot be retracted.
- Explain to them that pictures and videos reveal personal information. Therefore, make sure that your children understand what it means to post pictures and videos online.
- Instruct your children to never use webcams when communicating with strangers.
- Advise them not to post any materials online without your consent.
- Explain to your children that what they write online isvisible to everyone.
- Let your children know that abusers or bullies often target children who are interested to meet new friends online.
9. Review websites in terms of safety of use
- Check your child’s profile regularly.
- Go through the history of his/her account and, if necessary, edit his/her profile settings to a level that you feel comfortable with.
- Websites, which are well designed, provide the option for the parents themselves to turn on Parental Control.
- You can contact site administrators to ask that your child’s profile is deleted, should he/she refuse to follow the rules of that page. This also intends to reinforcethe message you are conveying to your children about the importance of following rules and the consequences of breaking them.
- Make sure that your child adheres to the age restrictions stated in websites. If children are younger than the recommended age for use of these sites, they should not use them. For example, the minimum age foropening a profile in social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, is 13 years old.
- Make sure that your children do not use their full name in online communications. They should use nicknames wherever possible.
- Do not let your children post their friends full names or any other information that can be used to identify them, such as their home address, phone number, school name and other personally identifiable information.
When kids go online, they can communicate directly with friends, family as well as with strangers. Every adult has a responsibilityto help children learn about online safety. This includes parents, teachers, educators, guardians, or anyone else with children under his/her care.
Educating children about online safety can be difficult, especially at a time like this when technology is advancing rapidly. Apart from parents who must be very careful, educators or teachers in schools also play a key role in educating children about safe internet usage. The main concern for teachers with regards to being online, is supervising students when they use the internet at school. Furthermore, it is important that educators approach this issue positively and collaborate with parents in educating children about the ways of accessing internet and the risks that may be encountered while online.