Although the Internet opens a world of possibilities for children, they can also be exposed to dangers while exploring the information super-highway. There are individuals who may attempt to sexually exploit children by gradually lowering their inhibitions. As the relationship continues, the child may consider the person a "friend," and won't want to hurt their feelings or get them into trouble. As a parent, you are responsible for teaching your children how to be safe online.
Technology is a double-edged sword. It helps us stay connected, but at the same time, it has the potential to isolate us. It is important that the time children spend online is balanced by offline relationships and activities. Although the Internet can be dangerous, it is an important and necessary tool.
Parents and guardians play a crucial role in keeping children safe, as you are their role models. They follow what you do and listen to what you say. It is important that you become as educated as possible about the Internet, applications and social networks.
Become more familiar with technology.
Get to know the applications and services that your child uses and find out what type of information it offers.
Create rules for Internet use in the home.
Set reasonable rules and guidelines with your children for all electronic devices they use, like what they can and cannot be used for, when they can use a mobile device or computer, and how long they can use the device.
Go online with your children and know what they are doing.
When possible, have them show you their favorite websites and applications. Check the Internet history on computers they use and texts on their devices to see which sites your child is visiting and who they are talking to. Remember, you have the responsibility to keep an eye on what your kids are doing.
Watch and guard what your children post online.
Kids don't know how risky and dangerous the world can be. If they use social networking sites, check their profile and review their photos and posts. You are not being nosy; you are being a good parent. They need to know that anyone can see what they post online, including parents AND sexual predators.
Go online and use devices with your kids.
Spend time letting your kids show you what they do when they are online or using a personal device. This can be a great learning experience for both of you. If your kids know something that you don't, ask them. Parents and guardians should keep the credentials for app stores to themselves. If a child wants to install something, that forces them to ask for permission first.
Know who your kids are talking to.
Ask your kids who they talk to with their devices and how they communicate (i.e. email, text messages, social networks, etc.)
Teach your kids right from wrong.
The difference between right and wrong is the same on the Internet as it is in real life. Make sure that kids know that the rules for good behavior don't change just because they're on a computer or personal device.
Don't allow solitary surfing.
Do not allow your child to go to bed with their personal device. They should keep it in a main area when it is not in use.
Teach your kids to watch their step.
Make sure your kids know that no matter what they do with technology, they are always leaving information about themselves.
Instruct your children to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online.
If you agree to let your child meet someone they met online, go with them. Be sure to meet in a public spot, and let the buddy know you will be accompanying your child. If the new friend is against meeting this way, it's a tip-off that you probably don't want them meeting anyway.
Insist that your kids never give out personal information or post photos of themselves.
Tell your kids that it is never appropriate to give out any identifying information, such as name, address, school, phone number, age, etc. If they are asked for this information, insist that they ask you if it is okay before providing it.
Tell your kids that it's okay not to respond.
Instruct your children to never respond to messages or postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
Teach your kids to trust their instincts.
Make sure that if your kids see anything online that makes them nervous, they should come tell you about it.
Control your children's online activity.
Computers and devices with parental controls can help you filter out harmful content, monitor the sites that your child visits, and find out who they communicate with. Also make sure they know that not everything they are told online is true.
Don't rely solely on technology as a substitute for you.
Technology will never replace good parenting. It's important that we talk to our kids about the dangers that they face online and help them to understand the safeguards that we put in place to protect them.
For additional safeguards and information on minimizing the chances of an online exploiter victimizing your child, signs that your child might be at risk online, what to do if you suspect your child is communicating with a sexual predator, identifying behaviors that may indicate inappropriate activities online, and much more, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation's "A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety".
Sexual predators are a parent's worst nightmare. In cyber space, they lurk in web communities and playgrounds where your children like to hang out, such as the social networking sites that have become so popular. Keep an eye on your kids, know who their cyber friends are and make sure they don't do anything foolish. That other "kid" they're texting or communicating with could be a sexual predator. Review your children's contacts and online friends.