The first step in online safety is installing an internet filtering service like Net Nanny and setting up parental controls. Catalin Cosoi, senior researcher at BitDefender, suggests openly discussing parental controls with your kids. "Children don't like to feel as if they're being spied upon. Discuss your controls with your children so they understand how these services work to shield the family from web dangers," Cosoi said. Check your parental control settings on a regular basis, and remember to regularly update your internet security software, too. Also, don't forget to set parental controls on gaming devices.
Make the online experience a family affair. Jill Starishevsky, author of My Body Belongs to Me and a prosecutor of child abuse and sex crimes, recommends keeping your computer in a public area of your house, away from your child's bedroom. Not only can you keep tabs on how much time your youngster spends online, but you can also learn about the people, places and information they interact with. Communication is key -- create an open dialogue so your children feel safe coming to you for help or information.
Don't forget about gaming devices and mobile devices, too. Keep them in a spot you can easily supervise their use.
Protect kids online by teaching them to think before they share. "Teach your child never to give out their last name, address or phone number to a person on the internet, and to never meet internet friends in person without a parent's supervision or consent," Starishevsky said.
Ideally, kids shouldn't post any pictures on the internet. But, if you choose to allow older kids to post pictures online, personal security and identity theft expert Robert Siciliano recommends advising them not to post inappropriate photos or any pictures that may reveal their identity, such as a city or school name on a shirt. As a rule of thumb, Siciliano says kids should always remember that if it's not OK in the physical world, it's not OK online, either.
P911! Do you know what that means? It's chat lingo for "my parent's are coming." Cosoi recommends parents get educated on the latest acronyms being used by kids on instant messenger and in chatrooms. Get up-to-speed by checking out this list of acronyms put together by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
If you decide to allow your children access to social online communities like Facebook, be sure you do your homework first. "Parents should study the privacy features and compile lists of trustworthy individuals with whom children are safe to communicate with online," Cosoi said.
Just as you do for your name, it's also important to perform a regular query on a search engine on your child's name, too. "They may see information such as blogs they have, communities they're active in and family background," Cosoi said. "This also gives children a sense of how information is shared online."
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