Internet Safety for Little People

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The internet is a powerful tool for our children and it can be great for educational resources, communicating with friends and teachers and playing games.

But, as we full and well know the world wide web is a risky playground and the use of the internet comes with risks that relate to the viewing of inappropriate content, cyberbullying and online predators.

The internet, and the influence it has on our wee ones has only continued to grow.

As such, it’s crucial that we equip not only ourselves but our children with the know-how to navigate their way around the connected world, safely.

Using the Internet can be a fun and rewarding experience for kids. But, when they are unsupervised, it can also become a dangerous space. That said, in today’s feature we’re going to look at some helpful information that you and your children can leverage to mitigate the risks that come with online activities.

Some basic guidelines are:

*Educate your children on good vs bad internet behaviour and make sure they know when to speak to an adult.

*Limit the use of internet connected devices to a common area as opposed to individual rooms.

*Monitor the time spent on online and using their smart devices.

*Bookmark your children’s favourite sites.

*Regularly check their internet browsing history.

*Find out what online protection is offered by your child’s school, friends’ homes, or any place where kids could use a computer without your supervision.

*Use security tools and privacy features — whether offered by your browser or Internet service provider or purchased separately — for extra protection.

*Know who your child talks to online, be cautious of any friends or online aliases they haven’t met in person.

*Talk to them about their online reputation and help them understand that what you post online is forever. It’s important that children learn that everything they say or share online is very public.

*Make sure your child knows never to share any personal information with strangers including their name or address.

*Check your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.

*Most importantly (and I know this goes without saying) take your child seriously if they report an uncomfortable online exchange.

VIRTUAL WORLDS

Moreover, there are an array of virtual worlds online. Virtual worlds are computer-simulated online “places” where people use avatars — graphic characters — to represent themselves.

Many virtual worlds say they’re for adults only and try to verify that visitors are over 18 before allowing them to enter.

But a posted age requirement may not stop kids — especially curious teens — from finding their way in (and vice versa with children’s virtual worlds).

If your child is using or talking about a virtual world – you definitely want to check it out. Get familiar with the provider’s terms and conditions, know the content being delivered, review the protections it provides and always check and implement parent controls where you can.

It’s worthwhile checking out what protections your ISP (“Internet Service Provider”) can offer – these may be things such as time limits, content filtering and blocking age-inappropriate websites and services.

CHANGING BEHAVIOURS

If your child gets really interested in online gaming or virtual worlds, watch for changes in their patterns of behaviour that be reflective of red flags.

If your child is surfing the web, you need to be paddling right alongside her/him — or at least observing carefully from the shore. Taking an active role in your kids’ Internet activities helps ensure that they benefit from them without being exposed to the potential dangers.