Internet Safety: Tips for your computer savvy kid

By Karen DeBolt | 27th Jun 2008 | Filed under Parenting, Reflections, Techniques

It’s Summer time so that means more time outside in the sun
hopefully, but for many kids it also means more time in
front of the computer screen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the internet and all
the very cool internet sites that allow us to keep in touch
with friends from all over the globe as well as research
history or the latest gadget. What did I ever do before I
could look up just about anything at all on Wikipedia?

For kids, there are many great sites for gaming, social
networking, and sharing video which are really fun and even
educational. The problem is that sometimes kids don’t
remember that this online world is not actually private and
is in fact more like sitting on a street corner–a busy
street corner at that.

This lack of understanding can create problems if kids (or
adults for that matter) don’t take steps to protect their
online privacy. The worst case being the recent suicide by a
teen who had been the victim of a cyber bully, and there are
always stories about others who are lured by pedofiles into
a “in real life” meeting. Obviously, these are extreme
cases, but they have a message for all of us.

Basic Internet Safety

One of the most important rules is:

***Keep the computer in a public place in the house***

Yep, the computer needs to be in the family room or kitchen,
not in a bedroom. This more than anything else will help to
remind kids that they are “in public.” Peek over their
shoulder once in a while and see what they are working on.
Ask them questions and let them explain about the sites they
are frequenting and the people who are there.

***Let them know that the computer will be monitored***

In our house, kids on the computer do not have privacy. I
check their history periodically to verify they are not
looking at sites that I find objectionable. If you are
checking history and notice that the history is gone or
there is a chunk missing, then that is cause to immediately
remove computer privileges. It takes a pretty savvy kid to
remove history, but it is not impossible.

Supervision as always is the key.

***Kids should never use real information in profiles***

Social networking sites like MySpace, Gaia Online, or even
Neopets allow kids from all over the world to communicate
with each other. Kids writing to each other–how cool is
that? Problem is that there are weirdos out there too, and
there’s no way to be sure who is really a kid.

One way to protect your child to make sure that in their
public profiles on these sites that they do not use their
real name, picture, school, or even town. No real life
demographic information should be available and should not
be given out to anyone who asks.

Anyone who pushes for information. “What school do you go
to?” “What city do you live in” Is obviously suspect and
should be immediately blocked and the site should be
notified. This may sound harsh as the other person could be
another kid, but I really believe that its better to be safe
than sorry.

My daughter and her friends (in real life) had been
befriended by someone on the Gaia Online website. They use
this site to send private messages to each other and to
write stories together (what they call RPing or Role
Playing) This person had started out fine joining in on
their stories, etc, but things started to get weird when he
sent my daughter some sexually explicit messages. She got so
upset that she accidentally printed it out, and I saw the
print out. You can guess what happened next.

***How to handle removing computer privileges***

Depending on how computer savvy you are this can be a bit
tricky.  The easiest thing to do is to change the passwords
on the computer as well as the sites that they use.  There
are kids who would be able to get around that however. If
that is the case, and you are not home to supervise, then
take the modem with you. This effectively removes their
ability to connect to the internet completely.

Kids should never have administrator rights to a computer so
that you can always have access to change their passwords,
and so that they cannot create new user accounts that you
are not monitoring. One kid I knew created an account just
so that he could look at porn without having his history
show up in his main user account. Unfortunately, for him he
was not aware of how hard it is to completely remove porn
site information, and I was able to help his mom to find all
the evidence she needed. She took the modem to work after
that. . .

***Talk to your kids about your values***

I feel like a broken record (scratched CD?) but this is so
important! Kids don’t just automatically absorb our beliefs.
We have to actually teach them, discuss them and, yes,
repeat them over and over.

Your kids should know your values by watching how you live,
but also talking about why you feel the way you do and also
what the limits are around those feelings is really
important also. So how do you feel about drugs? What about
smoking? What about porn? These are all important topics for
parents and kids to think about and learn about whether its
on the internet or off.

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Summer is here.

For some families that means life will be simpler and
easier, but for others it means playing referee between
siblings, extra supervision to keep active bodies out of
trouble, and struggling with shifting sleep schedules. Or
maybe its the new school year that has you feeling stressed?

Now is a great time to really work on those issues that have
been keeping you from having the healthy and fun family life
you have been wanting.

http://www.counselingformoms.com/parentcoaching.htm

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Karen DeBolt, MA. All Rights Reserved.
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