Just like the world outside, the internet also has its dangerous places, and unsuspecting children can easily wander in. Strangers, hate groups, phishing, and other questionable content abounds online. However, you can easily avoid these unwelcome risks and best protect your child with a few simple changes within your own home:Get involved
As with other areas of your child’s life, step into their online world. Just like you know their friends, school environment and places they play, you should also be well-acquainted with their online playing field. It may feel tedious scrolling through page after page of princess or superhero websites with your child, but making sure they have a safe ride will be well worth sticking it out.
Stay a Step Ahead
Another way to stay on top of protecting your little one is to maintain a record of their fingerprints, DNA, and vital medical data close at hand. Our McGruff Safe Kit not only keeps all off this info in one convenient booklet, it also lays out kid-friendly safety tips for various everyday situations, including bullying, emergency preparedness, and of course internet & social media safety.
Everything in Moderation
Kids crave structure, and setting some ground rules for your home will help them feel more secure and give you some peace of mind. Some of the things you will want to decide include, quantity of time, days of the week (for example, one sibling has Monday and Wednesday, another Tuesday and Thursday, etc.), along with which sites they are allowed to visit. To prevent any confusion, be sure to not only discuss the rules with your child, but also the consequences for breaking them.
Posting a family contract signed by your child will also help reinforce these rules - feel free to download and print the Safe Kids Contract
Equip them to protect their own privacy
While they may not fully grasp the consequences of giving out personal information over the internet, be sure to teach your children to:
- NEVER reveal any personal information: name, address, phone number, e-mail, passwords, or school name. or picture without your permission
- NEVER open e-mail from strangers
- IGNORE disturbing messages
- NEVER meet up with anyone "met" online
Location, Location, Location
Locate your computer in a central area, to ensure ease of overseeing its use. That way, parents can frequently check up on what page their children are browsing.
Be their go to girl
Make sure your child knows she can come straight to you when she sees anything that causes her to feel uncomfortable, and assure her that you will never judge, blame her, or revoke her internet privileges.
Make your browser work for you
Many wonderful internet safety products are available for purchase. However, if that is not an option for you, you can also utilize safe-browsing modes, or add-ons you can download such as FoxFilter for Mozilla FireFox. These will enable you to filter out any explicit content, language or violence, as well as limited access to communication mediums, including chat and IM. Your browser may not be as reliable as internet filtering software, but it can at least keep some of the negative content at bay.
Keep it kid-friendly
For early computer users as young as four, think about maintaining internet surfing to only websites that list child-safe sites; you can find everything from TV, movies, music, and games, to more educational pages covering history, science, trivia, and more. Some suggestions include:
- National Geographic Kids
- Yahooligans (search engine)
- Ask Jeeves for Kids (questions & answers)
- The American Library Association's Great Web Sites for Kids
- “.kids” (US government domain for kids)
- Time for Kids
While a parent can only do so much to keep their child safe online, a few small changes will go a long way. In addition to keeping good records on hand, opening the door to meaningful dialogue between you and your child, along with teaching them the basics of personal online safety will last a lifetime. The earlier you begin, the better equipped they will be to make wise decisions, both on and off the web.