Kids & Computers: Keeping it Safe.
One out of every five kids receives some form of sexual solicitations online. School bullies have taken their malice from the playground to the Internet. Many social networks categorize users by screen name, age, gender and hometown. Personal information can be accessed with the touch of a button. Fortunately, there are ways to keep kids safe in today’s online world and enjoy a little peace of mind as kids surf, browse, and chat on the computer.
Social networks are great for connecting with friends. However, some of the information posted on such sites can be dangerous in the wrong hands with the wrong intentions. When creating an account for your child on a social network, there are a few general precautions to take.
- Don’t give out too much personal information, especially full name, address and age.
- Don’t give out identifying information related to location, such as the name of your child’s school.
- Tell your child that if they receive any threatening or uncomfortable messages, posts or comments to let you know immediately.
- Set specific hours when your child can access their various social accounts.
Many websites automatically propagate suggestions once a few words are typed. This can turn up some suggestions you do not necessarily want your child to see. Some sites give you the option to setup a Family Filter or other content restrictions. However, some of these settings do not automatically revert back to the old settings right away, which can be frustrating for adults searching for more mature content. Another possibility is to use settings on your computer, laptop or smart phone to set Web restrictions to prohibit access to certain sites.
It is very easy to send quick messages these days. Some of these messages in the form of email or texts include attachments. Inform your child that they should not open messages with attachments unless they know the sender. Most email services allow restrictions to be placed on recipients and content with attachments. Settings can be adjusted with age. Many cell phone companies allow parents to see all text messages sent via their account each month. Additional precautions your child should take:
- Don’t give out passwords.
- Don’t meet anyone you only know online.
- Block users who make you feel uncomfortable.
There is a nearly endless selection of software on the market that restricts content and keeps parents abreast of what their children are doing online. Software that is directly related to an user’s account, rather than the computer itself, tends to be a better choice if more than one person uses a computer. This allows content restrictions to be varied by age. Safe Eyes and NoodleNet are linked to program-specific accounts. Webroot Parental Controls and PC Pandora are related to each unique Windows user.
1. Limit Usage – Set aside a certain amount of time your child is permitted to use the computer for homework and to access social networks to keep in touch with friends. Make firm rules that dinner time is family time and not the time to send IMs or text friends. Be firm and try not to make exceptions.
2. Make the Computer a Family Thing – Place the computer in an area where anybody in the family can access it when they need to use it. This way you don’t have to hoover over your child or barge into their room all the time. This establishes a pattern of good computer habits.
3. Use Security Features – Any device that allows access to the Internet has some form of security settings. Make sure age-appropriate Web restrictions are set for each user. Check browser history periodically to see what sites your child is visiting.