John Robinson’s book titled Anyone You Want Me to Be tells the story of the first Internet serial killer. Anyone can pretend to be anything on the Internet and teens and younger children are particularly vulnerable especially if they send out personal information and photographs of themselves. As parents, it is our responsibility to know what our children are doing and with whom. It is important to talk to our children and without scaring them, we need to remind them of the potential outcomes of their actions on the Internet. Further, we need to be extra vigilant in order to protect our children from predators and even cyber bullies.
So, what can parents that they have not already done? It is simply not enough just to block websites or ban your children from certain activities on the internet. Remind yourself that no matter how responsible you think your child is, you still need to warn them about the dangers that lurk on the internet and you need to it often. Moreover, your child does not have to use the internet at home. They can use the internet at the local library, at school, or at a friend’s house. Therefore, monitoring your child’s internet usage at home is not enough, but teaching your child how to respond to certain situations can go further than you think.
Here are some tips to for busy parents in monitoring internet usage and helping their children to understand the importance of responsible choices when using the internet:
1. Discuss with your child what kind of things are on the internet. Tell them what types of websites are acceptable and which are not. Stress about the dangers of predators, about language that they can and cannot use, the language that others should or should not be using, and what types of pictures they should not be viewing or sending.
2. Put your child on a schedule and make sure they follow it. Windows Vista has a parental controls feature that can be set to only allow usage at certain times or to certain websites. Also, communicate with and ask your children where else they use the internet, i.e., library, school, a friend’s house, etc.
3. Know who your children’s friends are and communicate with the parents of those children. Ask those parents if they monitor their child’s internet usage. If not, instruct your child not to use the internet at that child’s home.
4. Be open and honest with your child and your child will be open and honest in return. You can even join your child while on the internet to play games and see what other things he or she likes doing on the internet. If you are concerned about sites your child visits, don’t judge him or her; you can always block those sites, if necessary.
5. Set the computer up in a common area like the kitchen or living room. You should always be able to see what your children are doing and you will not be able to do that in other rooms of the house.
6. Be honest with your children about chat rooms. If you do not want them there, block those sites.
7. When discussing internet usage, remind your children to tell you about the following things:
· People asking to meet them.
· People saying sexual things on a message board, email, chat room, etc.
· People asking for their phone number.
· Personal threats.
· Abusive emails and messages from websites or chat rooms.
The best thing any parent can do to protect their child is to be honest and open. If you let your child know about the abuses of the internet and that they are able to speak to you without being judged, they will come to you when these things happen or if they have questions or concerns. Play a more precautious role with younger children and if they violate rules, take away internet privileges.