LOCKING HEARTS WITH HEARTS - Internet safety with your children

Josh Lockhart

I recently watched an Internet safety video on NSTeens. I noticed when the teens were asked if their parents knew what they were doing online, they responded with: "My mom does." I thought: "Where is dad? Isn't dad involved? If other families are like mine, my dad knows more about computers than my mom." Yet, it is mom who is usually involved the most with Internet activity.

Your children are at risk online without the appropriate safety measures. Your son is more likely to seek out pornography online, while your daughter is likely to go on the Internet to connect socially with her peers, but also to expand her social circle. If she is struggling to get a boy's attention, she may look for attention online. The risk is you never know who is at the other end of the conversation. The same is also true for your son.

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There are some simple things that you can do to encourage your children to be safe online.

Limit chat rooms. Open chat rooms are a place where predators can easily put on a fake profile. It is difficult to know who is on the other end of a chat room conversation. Only use systems like MSN, Skype or Facebook to chat. Since with these programs you are able to choose who you want to be on your friends list. Encourage your child to not add anyone they don't know in-person, or remove someone they wouldn't say 'Hi' to in person.

Have controls on the webcam. Webcams are great, especially when paired with something like Skype. You are able to talk, and see, a family member or friend, who is far away. However, only a quick glimpse at some of the top rated videos on Google or YouTube shows how a webcam can get out of control. If the webcam is a separate part to the computer, only bring it out when needed.

Let the Internet sleep when you do. I have heard of a family where they take the Internet router to bed with them. Dad will literally unplug it and put it in his room, so no one is on the Internet alone at night. Or set up online controls that block you off the Internet at certain times.

Keep the computer in a family area. Make sure the home computer is in a high-traffic area of the house, so that it is always being monitored. Yes, in this day and age of wireless laptops it can be difficult to keep an eye on what your child does online all the time, but you can encourage them to do their online activities in a family area.

Be involved with your child's online activities. Let them know that online actions have offline consequences. Be aware of what they are doing online. Subscribing to their feeds on their profile will help you know exactly what they are posting online. It would be beneficial to know their passwords to all of their accounts. Go through internet history with your children, and discuss any concerns you may have, or praise them for being net smart. These actions may come across to your child as you not trusting them. They need to know that you do trust them, but it is the other people that you don't trust.

I recommend going to NetSmartz.org for more information on internet safety tips.

How do you manage the internet and keep your family safe?

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