Do you know what your child is exposed to online?
It is virtually impossible to control everything that children are exposed to online.
Although installing parental control programs and filtering software on your PC is highly recommended, this is not a fool-proof solution. That is, you cannot simply “set it and forget it”. Despite a parent’s best efforts behaviour, children may eventually see what parents do not want them to see. For example, you may have strict parental control at home but that cannot prevent your kids from accessing inappropriate material, playing violent video games, or chatting with strangers at a friend’s house or anywhere else the internet may be available. Today, kids can access the internet from anywhere via smart phones, laptop computers, and tablets and it is simply not possible for parents to keep an eye on every online action.
The Lesson: Continue to use parental software at home, monitor and supervise your child’s online behaviour when possible, and make sure to have on-going discussions about appropriate and inappropriate online activities and the dangers of certain types of online activity. Also consider talking to the parents of your child’s friends about what computer related activities your child is allowed.
Monitoring online activities is an on-going process
If you prevent your child from creating a Facebook account will this put an end to their habit of using social media? No, not at all. They will likely attempt to find some other social networking website to communicate. Some social media sites are safer and more appropriate for children than others. There are many parents who allow their kids to join Instagram and other such sites so that they can pursue their individual hobbies and interests.
The Lesson: Monitoring your child’s online activities is an on-going process. Make sure that you are familiar with the workings of social sites before you permit your child to join them. Become familiar with the sites your child frequents and make sure that appropriate security settings are in place. It is a dangerous position to be in if your child is far more computer and internet savvy than you are.
Computers are not necessary to access chat sites
Don’t think that because your child does not have a mobile phone connection, they will not be able to chat with unknown people. Children with home gaming consoles such as an Xbox or PlayStation (or even an iPod touch) can easily access just about every chat site available to those with computers.
The Lesson: Children do not simply use their home consoles to play video games and use an iPod for listening to music. Gaming consoles as well as portable gadgets also have parental controls – use them!
Nothing is ever really deleted
You may be surprised to know that whatever you write online is essentially available forever. Even if you write or post something that later on you regret and delete, there is the possibility that it has already been copied, forwarded or shared – and at this point the information that you initially shared is now completely out of your control.
The Lesson: Talk to your children about the sharing of information online. Make sure that they understand that posting information on the internet really means that they are sharing this with everyone – not just the person / people it was intended for. Also be very clear about what kind of information is acceptable to share and what should never be revealed online.