Introducing Your Kids to the Internet

Keeping up with Internet development is hard enough – finding ways to teach your children how to best understand and use the Internet is a far greater challenge. It is alright to feel overwhelmed, but that is no reason to avoid the topic.

The key to proper Internet education and safety is starting early. As soon as your kids can use digital devices, they will, so start with toddlers. Explain Internet safety, digital information, and ethics. These are heady topics, but by initiating conversations early, you are setting the foundation for future lessons as your children age. Remember to be patient, firm, and understanding of new generations. Here is a collection of tips to help you start:

Setting Controls

Consider Monitoring Software: There are a number of programs you can download to monitor and protect your children online. How you use these tools and to what extent (especially with teens) is up to you. SpecterPro, for example, allows you to limit the hours or times your children can be online in a given day. It can also keep track of emails, social media activity, and other information.

Less Invasive Programs: As children age, they become naturally protective of their privacy, which can make monitoring activity difficult. Choosing a highly adaptable program, such as SafeEyes, that can be customized as children grow, may be an ideal solution. Operating systems, like Windows Vista, also come with less detailed controls you can implement.

Kid Browsers: Kid browsers are Internet exploration tools designed for children, allowing them limited room to look up topics and sites. Illegal, violent, and sexually explicit activity is blocked through carefully constructed filters, and you can ban access to other categories as you see fit.

Meeting Strangers: Online Safety

Name Wisely: When choosing forum or social media names, stay away from names that give out too much information (real names, ages, etc.) and teach your children to do the same.

Safety Contracts: If you have a large family or are in charge of a body of students, consider creating an Internet safety contract. Here is an example from the Washington state website, but feel free to create your own tailored agreement between you and your kids.

Don’t Forget the Basics: It may seem obvious to you, but make sure your children know that Internet safety should mimic real-world safety: No conversations with strangers, no face-to-face meetings with people they’ve met online, no uncomfortable topics allowed.

The Biggest Mall of Them All

Permission Rules: Always have children and teens ask for permission before purchasing something online. Online shopping is so easy it can encourage unwise buying sprees. Do not use online wallets and credit card information that can be used without a password or similar protection.

Antivirus Software: With personal financial information online, identity theft and malware issues are always a possibility. To help limit exposure, teach your children about viruses and malware and how they work. Download and update antivirus software as a family.

File Sharing: File sharing music and movies is illegal, and your children should know it. The practice is so prevalent that children may often call out their parents once the topic is explored but consider this a good opener for family discussion. Your children need to understand exactly what the law says.

More Tips on Internet Introductions

No Free Lunches: Teach your kids that giving out personal information is always a bad idea, even when it seems like you are getting something “free” in return. Most requests for personal information are scams. If a form is necessary to fill out, go through the process with them so it becomes a learning opportunity.

Central Location: Keep your computer in a central, family-focused area.

Follow the Fine Print: Teach your kids to carefully read privacy policies for social networks they use, keeping an eye open for how personal information can be used and how they can adjust privacy controls.

Cyber Bullying: Some of the greatest dangers in our social media world can come from cyber bullies, not strangers or criminals. Teach your children how to acknowledge cyber bullying, how to avoid it, and especially how to report it if when they have been bullied or hurt.

Time Matters: Whenever you can, spend time exploring the Internet with your children when they are young. Let them learn safe ways to live a digital life by watching you from the very beginning, and invest time in continuing to work, play, and watch with them.


Additional Resources:

Securing the Human: Protecting Your Kids Online

Raising Children Network: Internet Safety

Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online

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