The ability to keep your child safe while they research or play online is one of the major concerns facing parents these days. So many parents are reluctant to let their children use the internet, even with all its advantages concerning schoolwork, for fear that they’ll come in contact with an online predator of one sort or another; and while those fears are not groundless, there are some steps you can take to minimise the risk.
The first and easiest is monitoring your child’s activities by being nearby while they are online. If they have a computer in their bedroom, do not let them have internet access if there is a chance they will connect to the internet when you are not available to watch them. Restrict the amount of time they can spend online to only participating in certain activities eg. homework, playing safe online games or keeping in touch with their friends.
If you do leave your child unattended while they surf or research online, remember that you can check your browser’s history to see what sites they have visited, if something seems untoward follow up on it and speak to your child about it. Ensure you have a pop-up blocker installed; unfortunately there are some sites that are indiscriminate in what pop-ups they’ll allow and while there is a slim chance the pop-up will show something you don’t want your child to see, they can also prove distracting when your child is supposed to be researching their homework.
Nowadays kids pass around their MSN or Yahoo etc IDs as much as they do phone numbers, make sure they understand they should never accept instant messages from strangers and should never give their personal information kidsecured online to anyone. Stranger Danger for the internet should be part of their everyday teaching much as it is for real life situations, so make sure they understand the consequences of what could happen when talking to strangers online.
Do not let them sign up to any sites until you can verify it, and if they need their own email address, if possible, make sure you can have access to it and that you have a spam blocker of some sort.
If your child is going to be accessing the internet often it is well worth looking into some of the programs available now. Most will allow you to block certain domains by entering names or keywords, some will allow you to keep track of all online chatting your child is involved in and limit their time online, while others will restrict any file sharing, sending of personal information, log all emails sent and received, and some will offer all the above and more. The best thing to do is to research all the types available to you; many will give you a free trial period, and decide which is the most suitable to you.