The Internet may offer endless amounts of information for those who seek it, as well as a place to connect with and meet other people. However, for children, the Internet can become a perilous place. Bullies from school can follow children home onto their computers, where the torture can continue. Children can also possibly come into contact with predators or other dangerous people through the Internet. Parents should understand these dangers and use various tips for safe Internet use to promote the well-being and health of their children over the long-term.
Should Children Use the Internet?
According to Kids Health.org, the Internet provides a vast and resourceful world that children often need. For example, these days, many homework assignments become computer-centric as every family tends to own one of these devices. Kids may have to do research for a project or homework assignment. Many websites and computer programs abound that appeal to children and engage in learning. Even interactive games can teach kids new lessons or can just act as a way of relaxing after school. By all means, children should use the Internet. They just have to do so safely.
What Threats Exist on the Internet?
The same article recalls the myriad of dangers that a child can encounter through the Internet. For example, by clicking on a foreign link, the child may accidentally access a pornographic image, video, or website. The child may find a chat room, in which people can conceal their identity, seeking out children to interact with. Using social media too young in life may mean that a child accidentally gives out personal information, once again making them targets.
What Internet Safety Laws Exist?
Many Internet safety laws exist, but one centers around children specifically. It’s called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act or COPPA. This law has the express purpose of keeping your children safe when they use the Internet for educational or entertainment purposes.
The COPPA law insists that websites should never ask for a child’s personal information without getting consent from the parents first. These same sites must make their privacy policies transparent to parents so that they understand exactly what use that the personal information may have. In this case, personal information refers to the child’s full name (first and last), their address, their phone number, their email address, and even their Social Security information.
The second part of the COPPA law insists that websites need very limited information on sites geared towards children. For example, in order for a child to enter a contest, they should only need to give the most basic information required for that site to get in touch with the child or parent should they win.
What Protection Measures Should Parents Take to Keep Their Child Safe on the Internet?
Even with laws like COPPA, you as the parent should still take your own measures regarding Internet usage and safety within the household. Make sure that your child understands that it’s important to follow these rules when using computers away from home as well, such as at a friend’s house or at school.
Parents should teach kids these basic rules:
- Understand that online deception occurs all the time. Someone who says that they are someone may not actually be the person that they claim. Children should always watch out for deception.
- Tell your child that they can talk to you if anything that they read or view on the Internet causes them distress.
- Don’t allow your child to give personal information without parental consent, including a child’s name, address, email address, and phone number.
- Don’t let your child post pictures of themselves without parental consent.
- Never let your child meet with or visit with a stranger that they met online.
Enforcing Internet Safety Rules
Even after you teach your children to obey these rules, you still should stay proactive. According to Kids Health.org, you can take even further measures to make sure that the rules that you’ve listed above are enforced. Try these tips:
- Keep the computer in a room where you can easily see what sites a child may visit.
- Learn how to block certain content and websites if the need arises.
- Create a joint email account that you and your child can share. This way you can watch your child’s email usage.
- Never let your child use your credit card or debit card on a website. If you want to buy something for your child from an online website, do so yourself.
- Discuss how long your child can spend on the computer and enforce this.
By following these tips for safe Internet use, you can make sure that your child remains secure while still enjoying the Internet. If every parent takes an active role in their child’s online lives, Internet safety should become less of an issue.