Safe Web Browsing for Kids
Simply put, the Internet has changed the way people think about the term “information”. That’s a pretty big achievement. The Internet is quite easily as big a tool to learning as the invention of the printing press was half a millennium ago.
However, if you were to exclusively watch certain current affairs shows, you might be led to believe the Internet is purely a paedophile’s hunting ground. It isn’t, but the fact remains there are dangers out there as there are with anything you do.
Many parents feel uneasy about letting their kids out in the streets on their own, even older kids in the daytime. Yet the way around this is to teach them about the dangers and how to avoid them, not prevent then from leaving the house.
The same could be said of the Internet. As a learning tool the Internet has so many benefits for children it would be madness to discourage its use. But proceed with caution. Here are some safe surfing basics.
General risks of Internet use
It’s not only kids that can face dangers on the Internet, it’s just that anything that could go wrong for an adult may be more likely to happen to a child, children being less savvy and less careful.
Common Internet errors include: giving out private information such as financial details via chat programs and clicking on dubious email links and downloads that result in the infection of your computer with viruses and spyware. Children may also simply do things you, as a parent, may not like, such as downloading copy-written material.
Yet there is also the possibility your child knows very well they are looking up material or talking to strangers in chat rooms. Violent or offensive material, in particular pornography, is something most parents do not want their children looking at – and there is plenty of it online.
Dangers presented by others
The rise of Internet bullying has been heavily documented. This is when children are harassed or tormented via modern means such as email, short message chats and text messaging, often by peers or people they know from familiar places such school. However, the danger that strikes more fear than any other into the minds of parents is that presented by other adults looking to do harm.
Messaging programs or social networks such as MySpace, Second Life and so forth put users on the same platform at the same level – child and adult alike. As children are so open when discussing their lives their safety can be compromised. In the past, child molesters have used chat rooms to befriend children and gain their confidence before arranging a meeting face to face.
Ways to deal with the risks
To prevent the unlikely but extremely undesirable scenario of an adult approaching your child for unsavoury purposes consider whether the following strategies are appropriate for your family situation:
- Talk openly to children about the dangers presented by other people in chat rooms.
- Warn them about giving out private information. Explain what private information is.
- Set your computer’s firewall to child safety mode to prevent access to offensive sites such as those containing pornography.
- Talk to your Internet service provider about child-safe options. These may include limiting access to some features and sites or using a software program that can do it for you. Be aware, however, that these methods are not perfect. Something “bad” may slip through, while something “good” may be banned.
- Make sure your child uses search engines created so they don’t bring up search results featuring websites with offensive material – or use search engines that have a child-safe option. Google has a Safe Search option, for example. This means it will block adult content to prevent it from displaying in the search results.
- Try to keep track of what your children download. Web browsers including Firefox and Internet Explorer have options that permit you to view the browsing history.
- Consider putting the computer in a public area of the home where the screen is easily visible.
- Be aware of whether your child is using peer-to-peer technology and file-sharing programs. It is on these platforms that violent and pornographic material is often illegal in content and there is no filtering in place in these areas either.
A commonsense approach will help improve your child’s safety and restore your peace of mind.
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