Recently there has been rising concern in the media over Facebook privacy issues. But it’s not just Facebook that should have you concerned; The Internet as a whole can present many dangers. Threats to children can be especially troublesome.
So how can you protect your kids besides taking the Internet away from them completely?
“Denying your child access to the Net is seldom an answer, as children will often find a way to use it regardless,” says author John Lenardon in his book Protect Your Child on the Internet. “Understanding the threats and educating your child about them is the best way to protect him or her.”
The first thing you should do pay attention to the signs that your child might be in danger. If he or she quickly turns off the computer or changes the screen when you enter the room, is hiding CDs or DVDs from you, or is spending a larger than normal amount of time online, these could be cause for concern. Perhaps your child mentions names of people you don’t know, suddenly becomes secretive, or begins having sleeping problems (a possible sign he or she is scared or worried).
Even if these signs aren’t readily apparent, Lenardon explains that there are many things you as parent or guardian can do to ensure your child’s safety. You can check your computer’s history, and there are ways to monitor your child’s activities in chat rooms, instant messenger programs, blogs, and email. You should also familiarize yourself with abbreviations used on the Internet (such as “LOL” and “A/S/L,” which stand for “Laughing Out Loud” and “Age/Sex/Location?” respectively).
Last but not least, speak with your child about the dangers and threats the Internet presents, and come up with an Internet usage agreement that you can both sign.
“It takes some effort,” says Lenardon, “however, the peace of mind you’ll get … will make the effort worthwhile – and you’ll have helped make the Internet a safe place for your child to play and learn.”
The author, John Lenardon, is president of Data Cyber Labs, a company specialized in computer crime investigations and training. He has been consulting corporations and government departments worldwide for over 20 years.
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