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Tips for Parents

By The Online Mom

The steps that parents should take to ensure that their children are safe and act responsibly in today's digital world will vary dramatically on how old their children are and how much influence technology has on their particular child. However, there are some basic things that parents can do whatever the age of their child. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Get In The Game! Make an effort to understand the basics of the technology that your child is (or will be) using on a daily basis. Technology is such a big part of their lives, no parent can afford to just step away from their responsibilities in this area. You may be doing a fantastic parenting job in all other aspects of your child's life but without understanding at least the basics, you cannot be part of their ever-expanding digital world. It's not difficult to grasp some fundamentals and get up-to-speed. Plus, it's fun and educational - that's why your kids love it so much.
  • Open a dialogue. Talk to your kids about technology and in particular about Internet safety. Agree on a set of rules for using the computer and going on the Internet. Surf the web together. Stay involved, your child's tech and online activity will increase and become more complex as they get older and technology continues to evolve. Keep the conversation going.
  • Be informed. Know what technology your child uses, what games they play, which web sites they visit, and with whom they are communicating. For young children, give them an approved list of web sites.
  • Be interested. Ask your child what they are doing, what programs they are using, what sites they are visiting. Ask them to show you how their tech toys work and what they and their friends do with them.
  • Help your child understand what inappropriate behavior is. If you or you child encounter inappropriate behavior, whether it's violent video games, cyber-bullying, or online predators, don't just let it go. Act on it, whether it's talking to your child, bringing the subject up with another child's parents or reporting it the appropriate authorities.
  • Buy a family computer and keep it in a public place in the home. Encourage your children to regard it as a resource for everyone to use. Give each of them separate IDs and passwords, so they have a sense of ownership and privacy.
  • Never give out personal information over the Internet. Explain to a child that he or she must never give out personal information over the Internet. Family e-mail addresses, phone numbers, names, birth dates, home addresses, family details, photos, etc. should all be jealously guarded. Although social networking sites ask for and encourage sharing this information, your child should know that protecting their own and their family's identity should be one of their top priorities.
  • Empower yourself. Use Internet filtering or monitoring software. You don't have to check in on what your child is doing every day but the fact that you can, and they know you can, helps set the right tone for responsible behavior.
  • Teach your children not to open unknown or suspicious files. Help your child understand what a suspicious file looks like.
  • Talk to other parents about your children's technology experiences and online safety. Form a network of other concerned parents. Join The Online Mom Network!

Rules for the Internet

An open and honest dialogue about online activities goes a long way in keeping kids safe. Starting children out with a clear set of rules and guidelines will help them stay on track and provides them with a solid foundation of online responsibility as they get older and their Internet experience expands. Here are some sample rules for elementary and middle school children. Type them up together and keep them nearby.

  • My parents and I will decide together when and for how long I am allowed on the Internet.
  • I will not give out personal information (last name, address, telephone number, parents' names, school, etc.) to anyone I meet online.
  • I will not meet anyone in person that I met online without my parents permission.
  • If anyone says or does anything online that makes me uncomfortable or upsets me, I will tell my parents.
  • I will not buy anything online without first getting permission.
  • I will ask permission before downloading games, movies, music or programs.
  • I give my parents permission to see what I do on the Internet. If they ask for my password, I will give it to them.
  • If my parents have installed monitoring software, I will not disable or tamper with it.