Information for parents
The Internet is a useful peer-bonding and educational tool but must be used in a safe manner. One might say responsible Internet use is similar to responsible driving — most parents allow their teens to drive but should educate their teen on safety and security.
Of thousands of middle and high school students polled:
- 58% admit to using the Internet unsafely, inappropriately, or illegally.
- 43% believe they should have the unrestricted right to download music.
- 22% know of someone who has been bullied or threatened online.
- 19% have met face to face with someone they first met online.
- 10% have met an online acquaintance of a different age face to face.
source: i-SAFE, 2006
Parents may believe that their child would tell them about their online experiences, but a 2006 study (477k PDF) found that only about 25 percent of sexual solicitations and less than 40 percent of unwanted exposures were ever reported to parents.
On these pages we provide tips on how to protect your children and educate them on safe Internet use.
Parents, if you believe that your child might be at risk, contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 800-THE-LOST (800-843-5678) for help and information.
How can I tell what websites my child has been visiting?
For Windows users, you can check what websites have been visited by clicking on the "history" button on your Internet Explorer tool bar.
If the history is erased, you should be suspicious and ask why the history is erased and insist that it not be erased in the future.
Even if the history is erased, Windows maintains "temporary internet files" that are a record of the pages visited. For example, to see "temporary Internet files" on a Windows Vista or Windows 7 system, go to My Computer/c:/users/(NAME OF USER)/local settings/Temporary Internet files. If you have difficulty, search for Temporary Internet Files in the Windows Help.
Windows also has a function called "Content Advisor" that can be used to block objectionable content and specific websites, but beware that there are work-arounds to avoid this feature.
Online Safety Checklist
- Make sure your child doesn't spend all of their time on the computer. People, not computers, should be their best friends and companions.
- Keep the computer in a family room, kitchen or living room, not in your child's bedroom. Remember that this tip isn't very helpful when your children have handheld and mobile Internet and text-messaging devices. You can't make them keep their cell phones in a central location. So make sure that the "filter between their ears" is working at all times.
- Learn enough about computers so you can enjoy them together with your kids.
- Teach them never to meet an online friend offline unless you are with them.
- Watch your children when they're online and see where they go.
- Make sure that your children feel comfortable coming to you with questions and don't overreact if things go wrong.
- Keep kids out of chat rooms or IRC unless they are monitored.
- Encourage discussions between you and your child about what they enjoy online.
- Discuss these rules, get your children to agree to adhere to them, and post them near the computer as a reminder.
- Find out what e-mail and instant messaging accounts they have and (while agreeing not to spy on them) ask them for their passwords for those accounts.
- Google your children (and yourself) often and set alerts for your child's contact information. The alerts will e-mail you when any of the searched terms are spotted online. It's an early warning system for cyberbullying posts, and can help you spot ways in which your child's personal information may be exposed to strangers online. To learn how to Google them, visit InternetSuperHeroes.org.
- Teach them what information they can share with others online and what they can't (like telephone numbers, address, their full name, cell numbers and school).
- Check your children's profiles, blogs and any social-networking posts. Social-networking websites include myspace.com, facebook.com and tumblr.com. Generally, social networks shouldn't be used by preteens and should be only carefully used by teens.
- For those of you with preteens and young teens, read the Safer Social Networking guide at WiredSafety.org.
- Get to know their "online friends" just as you get to know all of their other friends.
- Warn them that people may not be what they seem to be and that people with whom they chat are not their friends, they are just people with whom they chat.
- If they insist on meeting their online friend in real life, consider going with them. When they think they have found their soul mate, it is unlikely that your telling them "no" will make a difference. Offering to go with them keeps them safe.
- Look into the new safer cell phones and cell phone features that give you greater control over what your children can access from their phone and who can contact them. We suggest that parents always carefully review their child's monthly cell phone bill (if they have one) for all numbers dialed and received. Unfamiliar numbers or calls occurring at odd hours of the day or night may be a tip that the child is communicating with someone who wishes to remain under the "parental radar."
source: Parry Aftab at WiredSafety.org