There is no denying the fact that Internet can be a dangerous place for tweens, who are too young and naive to protect themselves against the many threats that are on the prowl in cyber space. There are over 100,000 websites involved in child pornography, whereas 75 percent of Internet crimes involving sexual solicitations of children and exposure to unwanted pornography go unreported.
Completely restricting a tween’s access to the Internet is hardly a viable solution, as it can deprive them of the many benefits that it has to offer. Instead, the focus should be on making the online world safer for the child through necessary precautions and closer supervision to ensure they stay clear of online predators, adult sites and other dangers.
Decide on age-appropriate online activities
Before you get down to restricting your child’s Internet access and establishing rules, you need to first decide upon age-appropriate online activities. You, of course, cannot trust your kid with web-surfing, chat rooms, or accessing video-sharing websites such as YouTube in the absence of filters, but what about social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter? Ask yourself whether or not you’re okay with letting your child use these services and to what extent. If you do allow them to use such sites, get involved in your tween’s online activities to ensure that he only talks to people he knows in real life, such as family and friends.
Educate the child on Internet safety
Educating kids on responsible online behavior and etiquette is just as important as teaching them real-world behavior and etiquette. Give it just as much importance as you’d give to drug abuse, smoking, alcohol, or any other threat. Explain to your child why she needs to stay safe online and what can possibly happen to her in case she’s reckless. Get your tween talking to you about her online activities by showing interest in them. Don’t stop talking about the importance of online safety even if you feel that she stays well clear of risks.
Establish online rules and consequences
Establish online rules for your tween’s online behavior. It’s best to involve your child in the process, so that he knows and clearly understands the purpose of each rule. Be sure to state each rule in clear and simple terms and paste the list somewhere close to the computer. Also, discuss with him what information is safe and unsafe to share on the Internet. In order to encourage the tween to adhere to the rules, talk about the consequences of breaking them. Avoid making the punishment too harsh as it may backfire.
Invest in monitoring and filtering software
Monitoring and filtering software can make a significant impact on your child’s online safety. It not only lets you watch her every move on the Internet, but also allows you to block websites, content and words that you deem inappropriate for kids of her age. A report by MacAfee has revealed that although 70 percent of parents believe in parental controls, only 32 percent are actually making use of them.
Being on a lookout for the red flag
Although lecturing a child on online safety, establishing rules and using technology can make the online world pretty safe for him, you still cannot let your guard down. If the kid starts being extra-secretive or quickly closes programs upon hearing your footsteps, know that something is amiss. The sooner you’re able to detect the smoke, the easier it would be for you to put out the flames and hence keep him safe.
Even though you may wish to become your child’s best friend, you cannot make a compromise to her online safety just to avoid offending her. Once the tween grows up and learns about the true extent of dangers you had been protecting them from, she’ll definitely thank you for it.
Jessica Carol researches laptops, tablets and smartphones for Mobisteath. In many of her recent articles she explores how new trends in technology are affecting parenting. She can be reached at @Jcarol429
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.