Guest blog by Nathan Richardson, Founder, ComplexSearch.com
Children are gaining computer skills earlier and earlier because computers are such an integral part of our lives. Computers are a great tool that allows children to reach out to new sources of knowledge, fun, and cultural experiences. But, it also leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer sex offenders. It is easy to speak with strangers online and give out personal information, even if it’s unintentional. Online safety for children is a big concern for parents as technology grows and becomes an integral part of everyday life.
Children need to be aware that they could not only infect the computer with a virus and break the computer, but they could come into contact with child predators, thieves, and other such people that do not have good intentions. When young children start using the computer and gaining independence to use the computer on their own, parents may want to provide guidelines and safety precautions so these types of things do not happen. There are many products, tips, and recommendations to help parents provide online safety for children. The tips here are just a fraction of the tools available for online safety for children.
One of the easiest and highly recommended tips is to keep the computer in a heavy traffic area, like the living room or kitchen. The computer should be located in the open so family members can easily see what the child is doing on the computer. Knowing that the parents and other family members can easily see what they are doing online, children will be more apt not to break the computer rules.
Parents should create a list of computer rules and post them at the computer area. This way, the children will know exactly what they can and can not do on the computer. The list could include things such as not giving out your email address, real name, street address, and phone number to people the child is chatting or instant messaging with, instant messaging restrictions such as who the children can talk to, specific times in which the computer can be accessed by the children or a time limit for how long they can stay on the computer. Parents may also want to post a specific list of allowable websites.
If the child is on a social networking site, the parent should be one of their “friends” to monitor the activity. The child can also be instructed not to accept any new friends without parental permission. The parent may also want to provide rules on game playing within the social networking sites as a lot of these games allow instant messaging and “chat room” type services.
Parents can check the history on the computer to see exactly what Internet sites the children have visited. If anything looks odd, ask them about it. Communication is key to online child safety. Talk to your child about proper Internet etiquette. Teach them to be responsible on the computer without simply scaring them about predators and online thieves.
Watch your child’s expressions as they use the computer. If they look angry, frustrated, scared, or any other similar emotion, go find out why. Online bullying is becoming too familiar. Again, communication is key. Talk with your children about cyber bullying and how to handle it. This will put your child at an advantage so they do not succumb to such abuse.
There are many products available that parents can purchase to block or filter unwanted and inappropriate websites. These products will not allow access to certain websites based on criteria set up by the parent. The product will “review” the website prior to loading the page for view. If the site has content or restrictions based on parental settings, the page will not load or it may be added to a report for the parent to check out at their convenience. An Internet search will provide results of the many filtering products available. Review them to find the best one that will fit your family’s needs.
Parents can download kid-oriented search engines. Browsers specifically geared toward kids can serve as a safe gateway between your computer and the Internet. These search engines work just like regular search engines, but provide special features to protect kids from inappropriate material. Some ways this works is that the search engine will only search within a certain group of approved sites, or withhold results from sites that are deemed inappropriate. These tools are free.These browsers can filter out sexual content and otherwise inappropriate images and words, and are also designed to be easier for kids to use. Zoodles is an excellent choice. Here are some alternative sites if Zoodles, for some reason, does not meet your needs.
The Internet is a wonderful portal for learning, and children should be able to utilize the tools available to them, while being safe. Communication is the key to online safety for children. With these tips about online safety for children, you can be assured your children can experience the wonderful world of the Internet while being safe and responsible.
Nathan Richardson is the founder of ComplexSearch.com, a savings portal for deals and personal finance advice.