Keeping kids safe online
By Moira Cronin, McAfee Cybermum
Now that the school holidays have ended and homework is back on the agenda, school aged kids will on the computer doing research projects and of course talking to their friends about what happened at school today.
The internet is a great place for kids to learn and keep in touch with school friends, however, the World Wide Web (or the Wild, Wild Web as I’ve playfully decided to call it), is so big and ever changing, keeping your kids safe when they’re playing in their little patch of the internet can feel daunting.
Establishing early rules and boundaries will help keep your kids safe:
1: Position the computer in your main living space.
Make sure the monitor faces outward into the room so there is no secrecy. Be suspicious if your child quickly changes the screen when you pass by, or is hiding files or disks – someone may have sent them inappropriate or questionable content!
2: Set boundaries
Discuss with your child exactly what is and is not OK regarding what kind of web sites are appropriate for them. Monitored chat rooms specifically written for children are safe. Talk about what kinds of things they can talk about when online and get to know your child’s online friends as you do their school and neighbourhood friends.
3: Stress to your child that they need to tell you if they receive any odd or upsetting messages when online
it's important that chidlren understand that you will not be angry with them or ban the internet as a result. Make it clear that you realise that they cannot control what other people say to them and that they are not to blame if this happens.
4: Set time limits for internet use and enforce them.
Don’t allow your kids to be left alone in cyberspace for long periods of time – this is when they are most vulnerable. Ban late-night use. Parental control software enables you to enforce agreed time limits.
5: People in chat rooms are always strangers.
No matter how often they chat with them, and no matter how well they think they know them, people can lie about who they are.
6: Never to reveal personally-identifiable informationsuch as their real name, age, school, phone number, date of birth, or where they live.
Make up a name together that is non-provocative and doesn’t hint at who they really are. It’s important that they also understand they must guard other people’s personal information, such as friends' names and phone numbers and that their friends should do the same for them – then they’re looking out for each other.
7: Don’t let your kids open attachments in email messages from friends (and definitely NOT from people they don’t know) or file-sharing services without you being there to approve and scan the content for viruses.
8: Install up-to-date security software on your home computer.
9: Learn how to save chat sessions logs, how to block users, and how to report problems. You can save sessions by copying and pasting the message text into a word processing program. If your child has a problem with another chatter, send the copied log to the chat room moderator and administrator. You can find the contact information in the help or reporting section of the program.
10: Make sure your kids know how important it is that they not meet online friends face to face WITHOUT your knowledge. As parents, we keep a watchful eye over our kids in the playground. Well this is exactly the same, except the playground is in cyberspace and is a whole lot bigger! It’s up to us to work with our kids to determine the true identity of online friends before permitting any meetings.
Children these days are confident and competent online by age 8 if not younger, so it is never too soon to talk with your children. Open, honest and frequent communcation about online experiences, both good and bad, are important.
While some of these tips might sound blaringly obvious, how many or how often are they applied? Today is a good day to start keeping our children out of harm's way when they’re at play on the home computer.
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integrated parental controls also restrict sending of personal information without your knowledge. Most chat programs allow you to block a user by right-clicking on their name in your contact list and choosing the “Block” or “Ignore” feature.
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Learn more about keeping your family safe while playing in Cyberspace - visit www.mcafee.com/moirablog