By Debbie Gordon
(NC)-Parents would never dream of sending their five-year-old anywhere unaccompanied. On the other hand, they may be comfortable allowing their teen to go to a movie with friends.
Obviously, when it comes to public places, the age and maturity of children determines the extent of their freedom. The same limitations should apply in the online world. The Internet is the most unrestricted public space in the world. An Internet connection allows the world into our homes and requires incredible and ongoing vigilance on the part of part of parents. Here are some practical protection tips from MSN Canada's Online Safety website http://safety.Sympatico.MSN.ca.
Learning the ropes: 5- 8-year-olds
. Make sure to discuss computers with children at an early age and be available to address their curiosity and answer questions. Investigate Parental Control software to help manage your child's online experience. Some new operating systems, like Windows Vista, actually come with parental controls. This will allow you to create profiles for each family member with appropriate settings like computer usage time limits and activity reports. If you're running Internet Explorer, you can set up the pop-up blocker to protect children from offensive pop-up windows. Encourage children to bring up anything they see or do online that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Evolving independence: 9 - 12-year-olds
. Teach children about privacy and the dangers of divulging personal information to people they don't know and on websites. Monitor their instant messaging, social networking and email contacts with online monitoring programs (like Windows Live OneCare Family Safety). With this online service, children will need parents' permission to communicate with new people. Keep Internet-connected computers in an open space in the house, not bedrooms. Create a list of Internet rules with input from each family member.
Social butterflies: 13 - 17- year-olds
. Insist that teens never arrange to meet someone they met online. Be aware of the sites frequently visited and make sure they are not visiting sites with offensive content. Discuss the dangers of posting personal information and photos on social networking sites. Teach your kids that they should not be using the Internet to spread gossip, bully, or threaten others. Create open lines of communication about online activities like gambling, chat rooms and pornography - make sure they can discuss these things without fear of Internet privileges being taken away.
From first learning how to use a mouse to later building social networking pages, children's online activities become very sophisticated, very quickly. As the boundaries between real and virtual become increasingly blurred, parents can play a huge role in protecting their children by setting clear guidelines.
Source: News Canada
CYBERSAFETY STARTS YOUNG
"Children get hooked on computers at an early age. A research project that ended in 2005 (Young Canadians in a Wired World) reveals that an astonishing 94 per cent of young people access the Internet from home. Parents need to know that just because children have the ability to surf and handle a mouse, does not give them the ability of critical thinking or the capacity to scrutinize content and filter fake from reality.
Young children (5 – 7 years old) need technical support and supervision when using the Internet. Children in higher grades (8 – 10 years old) have a greater ease in reading and writing and consequently, they have less of a dependency for help when using the computer. They still require supervision. Both these elementary-school aged groups lack maturity in life skills and experience to protect themselves from most “Cyber Hazards.”
Cyber Hazards can include online predators, exposure to violent, frightening or hateful content, pornography and cyber bullying. It is possible to reduce the amount of undesirable cyber experiences and to help a child eventually learn to govern his own computer-use and to apply cyber safety tips. Media Awareness Network shares valid safety tips for children around the ages of 5 – 7 years old.
- Always sit with your children when they are online.
- Consider using “blocking” or “filtering” software to complement a safe environment. Keep in mind that this does not replace supervision.
- Create a personalized online environment by limiting your child’s access to a list of favourite or “bookmarked” sites that are “parent-approved.”
- Keep the family computer in an area that is easy to monitor.
- Start teaching privacy issues. Tell them to never give out personal information (name, address, phone number, etc.) about themselves or their family. Find a computer nickname to use.
- Instant messaging e-mail, chat room and message boards are not age-appropriate for children 5 – 7 years old.
- Encourage them to tell you if they come across anything that is disturbing, threatening or makes them feel uncomfortable. Remember to stay calm and let them know that they did the right thing coming to you.
Once children are actively surfing the net, a new set of rules must be designed to create a safe computer environment. At 8 – 10 years of age, children tend to be trusting and very impressionable. As parents you want to allow them enough latitude to discover on their own while keeping healthy boundaries. Not an easy feat, but the bottom line is still supervision and an interest and involvement in their computer time.
- Create some Family Internet Rules with input from the children. This may include the length of time spent at the computer, the sites approved for viewing, permission being granted by parents when information is required online, etc.
- Establish a family e-mail account and consider allowing the use of monitored chat rooms and message boards based on reputable children-orientated sites.
- Instant messaging is not age-appropriate.
- E-mail filters can block people, words or phrases and in doing so contribute in helping curb the pop-ups and other undesired cyber intrusions.
- Talk to your children about values and the possible hazards associated with computer use. Let them know that inappropriate material and potentially unsafe situations may present themselves and that they are to advise a parent immediately. Again, parents need to stay calm and congratulate the child for identifying the trouble and for being aware and smart. Keep the lines of communication open.
By age 11 to 17, computer-use mushrooms into multiple social networks and countless bookmarked sites. Parents must acquire a new vigilance and approach in dealing with cyber hazards, all the while, respecting your child’s new found maturity and sense of self. The bottom line is to start instilling good and safe habits at a young age."
Source: Canada Safety Council
TOP TEN INTERNET SAFETY TIPS
1 - First educate yourself, then your child
Banning a child from certain sites may only motivate them to spend more time on them, whereas educating that child on how to keep safe will give them the tools they need to navigate their online world without being hurt; from not posting personal information to a site to understanding that people they are talking to may not actually be who they are. If the parents know the dangers themselves, this sets an example to the child to understand them as well.
2-Teach children the obvious identity rules
Tell your children NOT to put photos of themselves on the Internet or to give out their names, addresses, phone numbers, schools, or other personal information online.
3-Install an Internet filter or family safety software
Family safety software is becoming extremely advanced and an effective way to filter dangerous content. Additionally, this software usually comes with tools like time management, remote monitoring and reporting, and keystroke recognition, giving families greater peace of mind and manageability.
4-Know the dangers associated with sites your children frequent
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether it's MySpace, Facebook or another social networking site, by knowing what people are doing on your children's favorite sites that could put them in harm's way, parents can educate their children and show them the warning signs of potentially dangerous situations.
5-Teach children what to do if they encounter pornography on a home or public computer, such as at a school or a library
In a similar fashion to the fire warning of "stop, drop and roll," you can teach children to quickly turn off power to the computer monitor and go to get an adult. This can prevent a child from attempting to stop the situation by clicking more buttons (and thereby spreading the attack and being exposed to more porn).
6-Manage your children's time on the Internet
Scheduling times when a child can be on the Internet and the amount they can be online ensures that you know when they are on the Internet and how long. By not allowing them to have free reign reduces their chances of being exposed to inappropriate content.
7-Set specific Internet guidelines for your children to live by and consistently enforce consequences, if they are not being followed
Giving your children specific guidelines to follow will ensure they know where they stand when it comes to how they use the Internet as well as the consequences when they breach the rules. If a parent enforces consequences consistently, their children will be more likely to follow the rules.
8-Keep computers out of children's bedrooms and in open areas
With PCs in the open, children will be less inclined to view and access material that may not be acceptable.
9-Create a relationship with your children that is conducive to open communication
Open communication and trust is extremely valuable. By letting children know what is expected from them and that their safety is a top priority, they will feel that if something happens --whether they are approached by a cyber stranger or bully of receive an inappropriate e-mail - they can approach a parent to resolve the issue without feeling they are in trouble.
10-Understand Internet Privacy Policies as they apply to your child
According to the FTC (www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/kidsprivacy.shtm), parents should be aware of the following as it pertains to protecting their childrens' privacy on the web:
What Website Operators Must Do:
Websites directed to children or that knowingly collect information from kids under 13 must post a notice of their information collection practices that includes:
- types of personal information they collect from kids-for example, name, home address, email address or hobbies.
- how the site will use the information-for example, to market t
o the child who supplied the information, to notify contest winners or to make the information available through a child's participation in a chat room.
- whether personal information is forwarded to advertisers or other third parties.
- a contact at the site.
Get parental consent
In many cases, a site must obtain parental consent before collecting, using or disclosing personal information about a child.
Consent is not required when a site is collecting an email address to:
- respond to a one-time request from the child.
- provide notice to the parent.
- ensure the safety of the child or the site.
- send a newsletter or other information on a regular basis as long as the site notifies a parent and gives them a chance to say no to the arrangement.
What Parents Should Do:
The policy must be available through a link on the website's homepage and at each area where personal information is collected from kids. Websites for general audiences that have a children's section must post the notice on the homepages of the section for kids.
Read the policy closely to learn the kinds of personal information being collected, how it will be used, and whether it will be passed on to third parties. If you find a website that doesn't post basic protections for children's personal information, ask for details about their information collection practices.
Decide whether to give consent.
Giving consent authorizes the website to collect personal information from your child. You can give consent and still say no to having your child's information passed along to a third party.
Your consent isn't necessary if the website is collecting your child's email address simply to respond to a one-time request for information.
If you wish to instal a software to protect your kids online, you might consider Net Nanny that provides you with a broad set of Internet safety tools. Follow the link below and learn more about this software: http://www.netnanny.com/products/netnanny
FAMILY CONTRACT FOR INTERNET USE
The following is an Internet contract suggested by the Calgary City Police Crime Prevention Unit, to assist your family in defining guidelines for Internet use and to encourage discussions of Internet safety.
Post it everywhere you have a computer
1 - We believe computer security is the business of everyone in this home.
2 - We do not fight, swear or gossip in our email. We never respond to inflammatory, obscene or insulting emails.
3 - We never swap software, games or files, unless we’re sure they don’t contain viruses. We never download pictures, freeware, shareware or text from an unknown source or websites we don’t trust.
4 - We never open email attachments from an unknown person or company.
5 - We respect our friends’ email privacy by deleting forwarded email addresses before sending these messages onward. We use the ’Bcc’ feature when sending messages from our address book to protect our contacts.
6 - We never respond to Spam or junk mail.
7 - We don’t give out identifying information such as our name, address, school, phone number or other personal information.
8 - We do not post personal pictures on the Internet of ourselves or other people or send photos of ourselves through email.
9 - We don’t shop at websites that don’t respect our security and privacy.
10 - We always use passwords and we change them often.
11 - We understand that whatever information is revealed in chat rooms may or may not be the truth.
12 - We make sure our computer and Internet security is always up to date.
13 - We never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone we met on the Internet or in a chat room.
14 - As your parent/guardian, I will remain calm you when you tell me about any problems you are having on the Internet.
15 - I will support you in whatever way I can.
Parent or Guardian signature