Stranger danger is a term we all use with our children to make them wary of individuals who mean them harm. However, sometimes we let off the reigns a little too easily and allow our children to run full steam into the danger. How early is too early to allow them internet access and the ability to surf on their own? Should you monitor their activities, their chat sites and games? Are you turning into that over protective, stalker parent that so many kids complain about? We will examine the options available to parents and how they can protect their children who go online.
Most computers, whether it is a desktop or laptop, have an administrator mode and user mode in the operating system. This administrator mode will allow you to set up user accounts for your children and put you in control of their parental settings. Most parental settings are in the control panel of the main operating system. Usually you can click the start button in the bottom left hand corner, select control panel and then user accounts and family safety. This is where you would start creating the user accounts for the children.
After you have created a user account, the option for parental controls appears just below. By clicking on the parental controls, you can set up many different watches based on the age group. The options include filtering which websites the child can go to, how long the child is on-line, and game ratings. The game ratings option is a nice feature because it keeps little ones away from those gory ones that will keep them awake at night.
If you include social networking for your child, clearly outline the rules including preventing online bullying, chatting with friends and accepting stranger friend requests. You should also maintain the fact that both parents and the child will know the password. Check it frequently and make sure you recognize every name on your child’s friend list. Look at the chats and messages that are generated between your child and somebody else. Do not deviate from rules you would enforce in real life. If your child is demonstrating foul language you would not allow in the house, do not allow them to use it online. There should be no difference. Do not hesitate to lock them out of that social website as punishment. Social websites are privileges not requirements for living.
Finally, how young is too young? It can be difficult when you have children spread across the age gap where some are more mature and responsible than others. There are several products that are marketed just to the younger generation that give them gaming and some web surfing without all of the concerns that we carry as parents. Review each one and talk to other parents about what they think. While there are some great websites aimed at younger children, some social websites do not allow children under the age of 13 or 14 years old to sign up. If you feel your child is old enough to hand the responsibility of social media and keep them out of trouble, then go for it; but be wary and observant of all activity.
Are you going to be a stalker parent? Yes. Our children are extensions of ourselves. We want the best for them and the opportunity to grow up safely. The stranger danger that exists online is a real fear for most parents. By being alert to options for parents to contain the concerns and being observant of what your child is doing online, you can prevent trouble down the road.