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How to Protect Your Child on the Internet

Do you pay attention to ratings on movies, video games and music? What about websites, emails and text messages?  That’s harder because there are no ratings and your kids can get there without asking you.

The internet provides access to a world of information

The internet provides access to a world of information

Websites
The internet is a wonderful tool.  I can hardly remember the days when I did research with real old-fashioned reference books in a library or got out the yellow pages to find a local business. You can get everything you want on the world wide web. Unfortunately you can also get some things you don’t want.

You can install a program to block websites containing certain words, but they’re pretty easy to trick. All you have to do is misspell a word, using wrong letters, spaces and symbols. Then the blocking program can’t recognize it. And there is no way for a computer to interpret the contents of a picture or video. All it sees are a bunch of pixels in different colors. This means that your kids can go to a site and see pornography, violence, anything. And when one kid finds something cool, you can be sure that the word gets around their school about where to see this material.

There are a lot of websites out there that have good material and bad. On YouTube, for instance, kids can watch funny cartoon videos, see a science experiment in action, or learn how to pole dance. And the comments that viewers make about some of these videos are full of bad language.

So how do you keep your kids safe while allowing them access to this invaluable tool?

Setting Boundaries
Make it clear that there are some things they can see on the internet, just like on tv, and some things they can’t. Using the computer is a privilege that they’ll only get as long as they follow the rules. Here are a couple of good basic rules to start off with:
1. Don’t give out any personal information other than first name without parents’ permission.
2. Give them some idea what’s acceptable and what’s not. This will depend on their age. They must ask you before going on any website that’s questionable. If your kids break the rules, you can lock the computer down so that it can only access the sites you specify, but that’s really restrictive.
3. Don’t click on links in emails from someone you don’t know.
4. Tell your parents if someone sends you something that makes you uncomfortable.
5. Any chat rooms must be pre-approved by parents.

kidcomputerSupervision
Keep the computer in an open area, not in kids’ bedrooms where they can go online with their door closed. The possibility that you might walk by at any moment will discourage them from having something embarrassing up on the screen.  Don’t give them internet access on their phones. Not only will they have the freedom to go online unsupervised, but a group of kids on the playground with internet access is a recipe for sharing inappropriate material.

Check the History
Check your computer’s history periodically. You can get instructions on how to do this at webwisekids.com/how-to-check-your-computer-history.pdf

There is no automated way to protect your kids. You have to learn enough about the technology and you have to supervise their use of it.