CHICAGO | Pencils, notebooks, folders, new clothes, haircuts — a list that starts out like this can only mean one thing: it’s back-to-school time. While our list of things to do are long for this annual event, we should add one more thing to it: a discussion on Internet safety with our children.
Children of all ages are computer savvy, some more so than many adults. That is why it is important for parents to start a conversation with their children early on, setting up rules about using computers and about the potential dangers that they may encounter while online.
Since children may be utilizing multiple computers for their school work — in school, at the library and at home — you should remind them of these simple, yet effective safety tips:
Never give out personal information to someone they don’t know. This includes their name, address, age/grade, phone number and school.
Never send photos of themselves to someone they don’t know. Tell them to be careful of the types of photos they send friends or want to post on social networking sites. You may want to set ground rules that you should see and approve any photos before they post or send them.
Never agree to meet someone in person they have met on the Internet. Explain to them that it is possible that the person is not a kid their age but an adult who may be seeking to harm them. They should tell you immediately if someone asks to meet them so you can, in turn, call the police and report it.
They should tell you immediately if someone sends them something that makes them uncomfortable or scared.
As a parent, you can take steps to provide a safer Internet environment in your home:
Make sure the computer is in a common area of your home, such as the living room or kitchen, and not in your child’s bedroom. This can make it easier to see what sites your child visits while they are online.
Utilize the parental controls that are available through your Internet service provider.
Routinely review your child’s browsing history. If they visit a site you feel is inappropriate, ask them why they went to it and how they found out about it. If you are still uneasy, perhaps you can block the site to prevent any future visits.
Utilize computer monitoring software that will search for inappropriate content on websites that have been viewed.
Communicating with our children and being involved and aware of their activities in all aspects of their lives, at home, at school, online, etc., is the key to keeping them safe.