Keeping children safe online
August 9, 2010
by Jenni Sebora

You see it everywhere – children with their faces buried in their phones, pdas, and computers. But how safe is this activity for children? (Aside from tripping and ruining their vision.)

Because there is little personal contact with this activity, it is easy for children to let their guard down about what they are saying, and who they are saying it to. It is important that children are reminded that they have no idea who they are talking to if that contact was begun online.

Added to this challenge is the fact that this contact can happen virtually anyplace, anytime, and anywhere. Spam messages, especially, can subject your child to inappropriate messages and images.

While, for those who are technologically-challenged, keeping up with technology can seem daunting, the basics of computer and cell phone safety for your children, in many ways, can be simple common sense.

As with most things, parenting involvement is key. You should ask who your children are texting and emailing, or about visited websites.

Explain to your child the dangers of electronic communication, and that you are not “prying,” but are concerned for their safety. Better yet, set up ground rules before a device is purchased, or access to an exiting one is given. Some of these can include:

• requiring a shared password;

• having a shared email account;

• never allowing your child to set up an in-person meeting with someone they met online;

• keeping computers in a common area of your home;

• letting your child know that it is okay to end an unpleasant conversation by logging off and telling you about the experience;

• monitoring the websites visited by your child through the computer’s history function;

• setting time limits for the amount of “screen time” your child has per day; and

• supervising the use of webcams and digital camera uploads

Many Internet service providers like, EarthLink, America On Line, and MSN, have parental controls that can regulate and filter out inappropriate content. Similar services are available with search engines, and there are particular search engines especially for children, like Yahoo Children and AOL Children.

In my experience, they are pretty easy to set up and use. Of course, if you are into spending money, there are many software products that can be purchased that do the same thing.

Most importantly, impress upon your child that whatever ends up in cyberspace really never goes away. Remind them that the innocent joke about a classmate, or, the bragging about last weeks party (complete with photos) can have major effects on their reputation, school activity eligibility, and, increasingly, employability.

Advertise in over
250+ MN newspapers