The Internet has revolutionized our lives and the only way to go is forward. Thanks to the World Wide Web, we can now gain access to almost anything we care to think of, and connect with almost anyone we wish. Such a powerful tool does come with dangers, however, especially for web-savvy children who’ve grown up with the Internet.
Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, it should be a top priority to make sure that your children can go online and be completely safe.
Here are some tips to help you achieve this.
Set the ground rules
Given that almost everyone is either glued to their laptop or TV screen these days, actual conversation between adults and children seems to be dying out. Take some time with your child and make them aware of your expectations and their limitations. For example, most of the ‘adult’ social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have a minimum age of 13 to sign up, so make them aware that they should wait until they’re old enough before connecting to these sites.
Also encourage your child to talk to you if they come across any inappropriate content online or if they’re contacted by someone who they don’t know personally. It would also be a plus to teach them about cyber bullying and what to do if they feel that they’re being bullied.
Passwords are the single barrier between a potential thief and your personal information, and so it needs to be the stoic sentinel that guards your data against any attack. Encourage your child to think of passwords that are less obvious to guess. Just like at school you’re encouraged to use phrases to remember things like colours of the rainbow (ROYGBIV – Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain) you can use this technique to come up with a password that’s memorable for your child but not easily guessable.
Also encourage your child to not share their password with anyone at all (this is especially important if they’ve come up with a clever phrase to mask their complex password, as they might be inclined to tell people about their system) and make them aware that it’s never a good idea to use their password on a public computer such as at school or in the library.
Depending on what broadband provider you choose, you might be able to use parental controls that allow you to monitor and guide your child’s online activity. The details of this will vary between packages, but generally you’re able to block certain websites that are inappropriate for children, set time limits for their online activity and get reports sent to you about any social networking use or if they view any inappropriate content.
Some may find this to be a little intrusive and more ‘Big Brother’ than parent or teacher, but the controls offered by these systems are often customizable so they allow you to give your child as much online freedom as you like.
If you follow these tips and don’t become complacent when it comes to the way you child behaves online, you can make sure that they have nothing but positive experiences on the Internet.
Jamie Gibbs is the resident blogger for broadband comparison site Confused.com