The internet is one of the most valuable tools we have in learning, communication and creativity. Our children, like it or not, are growing up in a time when the answer to any question is at their fingertips. This makes so much information available and opens up a world of possibilities that means our children simply grow up differently. Whether you embrace modern technology, are a technophobe or are wary of the dangers reported in the media and how they might affect your child, this guide should help.
It is important that your children are aware of the risks of being online. This means discussing the risks openly ? from computer viruses to identity theft and spam through to grooming and potential sexual abuse. Make sure your child is very aware that people may not be who they say they are ? explain this very clearly so they have a healthy distrust of those they meet online. Instead of simply setting boundaries with no explanation, tell your child of the very real dangers other young people have faced when they have been careless on the internet. If your child is old enough to be allowed to access the internet, they are old enough to be told the risks in a very real way.
Encourage your children to show you what they are looking at, playing or doing online, take an interest so that they don?t feel that the internet is a private thing. Show them how to use it for good ? for homework, fun games and talking to family and friends. Find things they will like and email them to them, give them lots to occupy them to stop them from idly browsing, as this is when they may run into problems.
There are lots of excellent pieces of software designed to protect your children online. These can block inappropriate content, check downloads and even track what your children are doing online. Once you have chosen the software that meets your needs, ensure that your kids cannot access it by protecting the settings with passwords.
Never underestimate the power your presence might have when stopping your child accessing anything you wouldn?t want them to! Keep doors to rooms where your child is using the internet open, set a limit on the amount of time they are allowed on the internet and make sure they know that you have access to what they are up to. Just knowing that you have access can make a big difference.
While all this advice may make it seem as if you cannot trust your child and you may feel that your son or daughter has the maturity to not need such close tabs kept, be aware that all children get curious, and a few clicks can lead from a perfectly educational site to something you don?t want them to see, even if this wasn?t what they intended. Protecting them is for their own good, and your peace of mind.