Kid Safety for the New Millennium – Protecting Kids in a Changing World
There are many challenges facing parents in the digital age, and foremost among them is the challenge of keeping kids safe online. Part of the problem is that this is an issue that we simply didn't have to face as we were growing up. In the new and largely untested waters of the internet, is it really possible to keep kids safe? The answer is that there are simple steps you can take to ensure your kids are using the internet responsibly and to minimize the risk of them being exposed to things you'd rather they weren't exposed to.
Determining What Your Children Are Ready For
It would be nice if there were a simple guide that told you at what age kids are ready for different aspects of the internet. Unfortunately, while there are general guidelines for what maturity level is required before certain parts of the internet should be accessed, the reality is that it's largely up to you as parents to decide what your kids can handle. Don't fall into the trap of allowing certain sites or activities simply because other parents have. Your child is your responsibility and it is you who must decide what they're ready for.
Control Access to Your Computer
One of the simple steps you can take to ensure your children aren't accessing unapproved areas of the internet is to restrict access to your computer via a password. Anyone who uses the computer should have their own unique login. You can then change the settings for the kids, and can even track who accessed what in the event that there is a breach. This helps you decide what's appropriate for your kids to see.
Chatting Should Be Restricted to Older Kids Only
Until kids are at a mature age, they should be restricted from chatting. This can be challenging when so many programs offer chat. For example, Facebook, which can be safe for kids, also has a chat feature. You can decide if you'd like to avoid Facebook and similar sites altogether, or you can come up with a compromise. For example, tell your kids that they are not allowed to chat and make sure you have access to their login information. You won't necessarily need to check it frequently to see if they've been chatting – often the simple fact that they know you could check will be enough to prevent them from trying.
Set Security Settings Through Your Browser
Depending on which browser you use, you'll have one or more options to set security levels. For example, you may be able to block specific sites that you don't want your kids to access, or you may be able to set levels of content in specific categories, such as nudity, sex, and violence. This should be found in the Internet Tools section of whichever browse you're using. Your internet service provider may also provide an extra layer of protection in the form of filters and parental controls.
The key to keeping kids safe online really comes down to one thing: Being aware of what they could be accessing and ensuring that they're not. Talk to your kids openly and honestly about what they are allowed to do on the internet. Set clear boundaries and take the steps above to ensure those boundaries are being respected. When you follow these steps you can rest easy that your kids are as protected as possible when on the internet.