Only Young Once

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How to Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet

Girl on Computer

The Internet age can be a challenging one for parents, many of which did not grow up with the same sort of technological terrain their children are. With access to a wealth of information 24 hours a day, it’s easy for kids to stumble across inappropriate content and upsetting images if they are left to surf the Web unsupervised. While today’s busy lives are not conducive to constantly supervising a child on the Internet, there are ways to keep kids safe and smart when browsing the Net.

Basic Online Safety

Before your child ever uses the Internet independently, it’s essential ground rules are set. First and foremost, place the family computer in an area of the house with regular foot traffic. The kitchen is a great choice, as is the living room or a den. While it may seem odd at first to bring the computer out of the bedroom or office, it’s much easier to supervise a child and hold the entire family accountable when the only accessible computer is in a common area. You will know exactly what your child is doing online without having to nag or constantly check in. Limiting the amount of time spent online is also a good rule of thumb. Before allowing free access to the computer, define this time frame with your kids. Thirty minutes is a reasonable amount of time for younger children, while older kids can have their time extended to an hour or more. Some families make a rule that the computer is fine for games and social networking only after homework is done, or perhaps directly after school with all non-educational sites off limits after dinnertime. It’s important for children to engage with their families, and excessive time spent on social media may hinder this and lead to youngsters acting secretive and closed off to parents when it comes to computer usage. Have a common family password for all websites your children visit, including email, social network sites and the actual computer itself. This will remind your child you can check on their browser history at any time and compel them to stay on safe sites. Some families require kids to “friend” the parents on Facebook, although without password access, your child may simply filter posts or block you from certain photos displayed to the rest of their online world.

Social Media Safety

One of the biggest pulls for kids on the Internet is social networking. With the popularity of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more, it’s important children understand healthy boundaries when it comes to social networking. Do not allow your child to display a photo or full name. Unless they are old enough to legally have such a friend-focused site account or mature enough to remember not to speak to strangers (even virtual ones), it’s best their page stays as information-free as possible. As mentioned prior, “friending” your child on social networking sites is a great idea if you wish to get to know who your child is interacting with and monitor any content that may be deemed as risky or inappropriate. Finally, allow kids to friend only people you know personally. Family members, close friends and teachers are more than enough people for a child to add onto their social networking account.

Security Settings

Finally, always install proper security settings on your computer and smart phone. Use passwords where appropriate, Many programs are available to block kids from inappropriate content, and you never know when it just might save their life. Internet predators look for kids on unprotected, unsupervised computers, and while these instances are clearly very rare, they are still real. When it comes to the Internet, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.

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