The internet can be a wonderful resource, offering great educational and social benefits. However, just as threats and pitfalls abound in our physical world, they lurk in the cyber world as well. Here are some tips that can help you and your child take advantage of the benefits while minimizing the risks associated with the use of the internet and social media sites.
Know the Risks and Dangers
Make sure your child is aware of the potential risks of internet involvement. Here are four top dangers:
1. Potential Exposure to Inappropriate Material.
Be aware that even seemingly “clean” internet searches may not always lead to “clean” search results. In addition, comments and pictures posted to social media sites may not always be appropriate for younger audiences.
2. Online Predators.
This is someone who uses the internet to steal personal information or to search for victims. These individuals often go undetected by the victim or may even use a false identity to lure the victim into his or her trap.
This involves the continual posting of nasty comments or embarrassing images as a means to threaten another internet user.
4. Hazards Related to Sharing Too Much Personal Information.
Details, like location and contact information, can fall into the wrong hands, such as online predators, with dire consequences.
Set the Ground Rules
Once you are aware of the dangers, it is important to safeguard your family against internet threats. Here are some suggestions:
- Identify family “rules for internet use,” including which sites are appropriate to visit, which are not, and utilize parental controls on internet access to restrict access to inappropriate sites
- Adhere to website minimum age requirements (most social networking sites do not allow children under the age of 13 to join)
- Establish guidelines regarding who your child can interact with online (e.g. friends, but not with people they’ve never met in person)
- Ensure your child does not use his or her full name or other identifiable information (e.g. school name, hometown, etc.) online
Remember: Your Child’s Best Online Protection is You
Taking an active role in your child’s internet activities will help ensure he or she benefits from the wealth of valuable information it offers without being exposed to potential dangers. Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Become computer literate and educate yourself regarding your child’s preferred sites
- Set up a shared account with your child so you can monitor online activity
- Spend time online with your child to teach him or her appropriate online behavior
- Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable or threatening online exchange and follow up accordingly
- Keep the lines of communication open with your child and encourage discussions regarding your child’s online experiences
Knowledge, communication and vigilance are key factors in safeguarding your child against the dangers associated with internet use. With this in mind, you and your child can work together to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits the internet has to offer.