Tips for parents to teach children about online safety

Today’s younger generations are highly engaged with computing. Gaming, Web surfing, social networking and chatting are all activities children these days have grown up with and consider a vital part of their lives. Kids today don’t remember a time where playing outside was the center of after school fun, and rainy days were truly a bummer. Weather is hardly an issue for kids these days. Since the advent of computers, rain or shine, there’s always a time to go online!

Computer activities can be so engrossing that time passes quickly during play. Chances are children will not be able to regulate their computer time and it is up to parents to provide this monitoring. Time is not the only thing parents need to monitor – Internet activities should also be carefully supervised. As valuable as the Internet can be, unfortunately it has drawbacks too. The very nature of the anonymity on the Web can be a recipe for disaster when kids begin interacting with other people online.

Internet socialization activities are a virtual playground for predators and, as parents, it is important to must take care so children are safe online. Much like the way kids are supervised in the offline environment, adults also must guide children to understanding the safety rules of the Internet. It is inevitable a child will be exposed to Internet access, so the best way is to not prevent them from usage, but teach them the strategies and ways to protect themselves.

There are many ways you can effectively monitor your child’s and reduce the risks of your child falling prey to the dangers lurking online:

Talk to your child(ren)

Discuss the dangers of predators online. Teaching kids about strangers is nothing new. It’s important to educate them of the extra risks the Internet is in addition to “traditional” stranger rules. Many children are feel their “buddies” online are trustworthy because they believe these “pals” are the people they say they are. Take the time to explain to your child that people are not always honest online, and since you can’t see them, they can easily lie about their identity.

Educate yourself and use parental controls

Give yourself time to develop a full understanding about everything there is to know about the online environment that kids these days are tapping into. Learn about common social networking sites and keep up to date on these latest trends. Know about any other areas that appeal to children so you can effectively assess the suitability of these websites.

Additionally, it is a good idea to learn about parental controls and tools available. These tools can offer an extra layer of protection; they are not meant to replace parental eyes, but rather enhance monitoring.

Keep the computer visible / Set time limits

Installing the computer in a prominent place will allow parents to keep ears and eyes on what is happening. Let your child know you will be monitoring activity, but allow them a level of privacy too.

In addition, set reasonable time limits. Discuss this rule with your child and use the parental controls as an extra safety net. Many applications shut down after a designated time and / or Wi-Fi settings can be often set to cut off access for devices during certain times of the day. You also might want to consider limiting the amount of time your child spends on social networking sites. This ensures he/she will still maintain “offline” relationships and not favor the virtual ones.

Get involved

Monitoring your child’s computer time does not have to be stressful or domineering. Make it fun – taken an interest in chat buddies, ask to see your child’s profile and comment on it’s creativity, take an interest in the games your child likes – maybe even play one with him/her from time to time. If your child sees you are truly interested in their online activities, he/she will be more inclusive towards you and be less likely to complain about “restrictions”. After all, open communication nurtures understanding and your child will know you have their best interests at heart because you love them.

While the dangers are very real, there are a lot of rewarding benefits which come from computer usage as well. When your children first discover the wonderment of the Internet, teach your child the differences and they will grow up with the knowledge of how to stay safe and protect themselves.