Archive for Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Comment: Safe at home or play

October 12, 2011

Kids connect to it. They download from it. They watch on it. They listen to it. They play on it. They surf on it. They converse with it.

Do you know how to monitor it?

It is the Internet and it can be hard to keep up with. We want our children to be safe online, and with the amount of time kids spend online, it’s crucial that we do what we can to keep them safe.

Kids are turning to the internet for everything from hanging out with friends to shopping. They use and rely on the Internet daily. Studies reveal 93 percent of teens (ages 12–17) are online on a regular basis.

Youngsters may also believe they’re anonymous online, because they’re interacting only with a screen and not directly with a person. They forget what they post becomes public.

One of the biggest dangers is risky content. Despite efforts to regulate content, some of the most popular sites, including YouTube and Google Video, host disrespectful and inappropriate content. There are plenty of sites off the beaten path where anything goes.

You don’t want your child stumbling into adult movies or attending virtual wild parties. Nor do you want them connecting with online predators.

As adults, our childhood experience was much different than our “digital” children.

They may experience harsh and mature content at their fingertips at a young age. It is our duty as teachers of this generation to start the education process early.

Here are a few guidelines you should explain to your child to ensure their safety online. Inform your child that if they come across subject matter that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should talk to a trusted adult about it immediately.

Don’t let your children be bullied or bully others online. One in three children has experienced harassment online. If your child is the target of this behavior, encourage them to not respond and seek help from a trusted adult.

Know and understand the privacy settings for sites that your children may visit frequently. It’s best for parents and children to review these settings together and decide what’s best.

Have your child strive to be a leader when using the Internet. Encourage them to follow the golden rule and avoid dangerous, hurtful, embarrassing or degrading situations online.

Content blockers and filters are great tools to use with younger kids. They allow you more control over where they go and what they do online. They also block sites with explicit material or limit a child’s search to a predetermined set of sites. A content filter scans sites and images and blocks those that contain certain words, key phrases, or content.

Consider tracking software for older teenagers. This software enables you to view sites your children have visited. This tool gives young people more freedom to explore the Internet, and also allows you to verify they are using the Internet responsibly.

Let your teenagers know you trust them, but you will be periodically verifying that they are visiting appropriate sites online.

Even if you use content blockers, filters and trackers, know that plenty of kids figure out ways around these. It’s important to remain vigilant.

Remember, not all adult sites post an industry rating that can be identified by blocker, filter or tracker software. Talk to your kids about what to do when something inappropriate or scary pops up.

Nothing can replace involvement and supervision by adults. Keep monitoring how your kids use the Internet on a regular basis without becoming an Internet cop.


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