The Internet and the invention of the personal computer are perhaps the most significant creations of the 20th Century, offering unprecedented communication tools that link families and friends around the world. It provides users access to an incredible volume of information and is an invaluable tool for the academic and business world.
However, the Internet can also be a seedy and dangerous place for people of all ages, especially children and teens. Therefore it is vital that parents are aware if how to minimalize the dangers to their children, and to be able to inform their children of what measures to take in order to keep their Internet time as safe as possible.
Children are often introduced to the Internet at an early age, at which time the parent has full control over their child’s Internet use. As the child develops, however, parents naturally have to gradually relinquish this control, whilst at the same time doing all they can to keep their children safe from the dangers that the Internet poses.
Age 2 to 4
At this age children start interacting with the computer in the presence of their parents. There are numerous sites that are can be suitable for this age group but, in most cases, it makes sense for the parent and child explore together. This is not just because of safety, but also a way to assure that the child has a pleasant experience.
It’s probably best for parents to choose the Web sites they visit and not let them leave those sites on their own.
Age 4 to 8
For the first time, children begin to explore on their own, but it’s still important for parents to be in very close touch with their children as they explore the Net. When your child’s at this age it becomes important to restrict his or her access only to sites that you have visited and that you feel are appropriate. At this age, it’s important that kids experience positive results from sites that they come across. The issue here isn’t so much about avoiding dangerous sites, but about making sure that they are visiting sites that don’t frustrate them.
Age 8 to 11
During this period, for the first time children begin looking outside the family for new information, and peer pressure begins to become an issue for many kids. It’s also a time when kids are looking for more independence from parents. During these years, children should be encouraged to explore more their own, but that doesn’t mean that the parents shouldn’t close by. For this age group, consider putting the computer in a kitchen area, or any other areas where the child has access to parents while using the computer. That way, they can be “independent” but not alone.
Complete control over your child’s use of the computer
When your child is at this stage, you need to be concerned not so much about what he’s doing online and with the PC as for how long he’s spending on the PC. Be sure that his time on the computer and the Internet doesn’t take away from all his other activities. Children to need to spend their free time immersed in a variety of different activities, in order to develop fully. One way to deal with this might be through the use of a software time-limiting tool such as Chronager.
Age 12 to 14
At this stage, many kids want to experience even more independence. If children aren’t already doing so, this is a time when they should start using the Internet to help with schoolwork and, perhaps apply it to extra-curricular activities. This is also an age when you have to be concerned not just about what kids see and do on the Internet, but how long they are online. You need to set time limits so that they don not spend an excessive amount of time online. Also, you need to be sure that they are spending time doing other activities such as sports, music, and reading.
At this time children often become very social and consequently are most likely to be interested in an online chat. Kids should understand basic privacy rules and should be aware that they can never give out information about themselves or to get together with anyone they meet online without first checking with their parents. Also, it should be emphasized that they should never exchange photographs with people they don’t know. At this age, they need to understand clearly the fact that people on the Internet may not be who they are made out to be.
This is also an age where many children start to become interested in sexual matters. During this early period of exploration, it is especially important for kids to know that their parents are around and know what they are doing. You may not need to be in the same room as your kids the entire time they’re on the Net, but they do need to know that you and other family members can come in at any time, and can ask them about what they are doing online. If it is not possible for parents to be around all the time, then commercial Internet monitoring software is a vital tool for parents at this time.
A strong argument of getting an Internet filter is thus; If kids search hard enough, they can probably find Web sites and newsgroups that explore sexual fantasies that they — and even you — might find disturbing or even frightening.
Children at this age are likely to be interested in games that they can download from the Internet to play either online or offline. Some of these games may have content that is highly inappropriate for children, so it’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing on the computer, even when they’re not connected to the Internet. Again, Internet monitoring software can be a great help to parents who cannot always be around to directly monitor how their children are using the computer.
When using filtering software, you may need to explain to them that you are doing it to protect them from the material that you consider to be harmful. Just as you might not let them go to certain places in your hometown, you have the right to keep them from surfing to certain types of places in cyberspace.
Age14 to 17
At this age a teen is beginning to mature physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Consequently, he or she desires to experience increasing independence from parents.
Teens are also more likely to risks both online and offline. While the likelihood of a teen being abducted by someone he meets in a chat room is relatively low, there is always the possibility that he or she will meet someone who will want to have a personal relationship, and teens must be aware that these people might be very different from how they are made out to be online.
Teens need to understand that to be in control of themselves means being vigilant, on the alert for people who might hurt them.
If a teen does want to meet someone he or she met online, it’s important that the teen does not go alone and that the meeting takes place somewhere in public.
A teen should be given Internet privileges, that are subject to been taken away if the Internet is misused. However, remember that your teen will soon be an adult and needs to know not just how to behave but how to make his or her own judgment, and so finding his or her own conclusions on how to explore the Net and life in general in a safe and productive manner.
The following list should be given to your children and referred back to often. They are standard rules that children should keep to in order to keep their online activity as safe as possible.
1) I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents’ work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents’ permission.
I will not fill out questionnaires or any forms online. This includes chat rooms, instant messages, email, surfing the Net and event entering contests or registering for clubs online.
2) I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
3) I will never agree to get together with someone I “meet” online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
4) I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
5) I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. If I do, I will Log off and tell my parents. If I get such a message, I will not respond. Instead, I will show it to my parents and let them deal with it.
6) I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
7) I will not give out my Internet password to anyone (even my best friends) other than my parents.
8) I will check with my parents before downloading or installing software or doing anything that could possibly hurt our computer or jeopardize my family’s privacy
9) I will be a good online citizen and not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law.
10) I will help my parents understand how to have fun and learn things online and teach them things about the Internet, computers and other technology.
11) I will not enter a chat room without Mum and/or Dad’s presence or supervision. Some “kids” in chat rooms may not really be kids; they may be adults with bad intentions.
12) I will never respond to or send an e-mail or instant message to a stranger or accept e-mails, enclosures, links, URLs or other things online from people you I know. I will talk to my parents first so they can check it out.
13) I will not keep an online profile as this serves as a lightening rod for predators. If I do keep such a profile I am much more likely to be approached in chat rooms by dangerous people.
The first point referred to keeping information private. This is a vitally important point that children need to be reminded of again and again.
Everything about you: your name, your phone number, your age, your passwords and where you live is your private information. When you’re on the Internet or an online service you may get an e-mail message, an instant message or come to a website that asks you for this type of information.
Children should know that if people get hold of private information through the Internet;
They might want to use it so they can try to sell them things.
They might send them an unwanted and highly inappropriate e-mail (spam).
They might actually sell or trade their information with another company.
Or, they might have much more sinister and dangerous intentions, and use this information to try to make personal contact with the child, at first through the Internet, and then maybe face to face.
SoftForYou a filtering and monitoring software company, whose products were highly rated by PC Magazine, Tech TV, Lockergnome, Kim Komando Show and by others, is designed to enable children to use the Internet, whilst been shielded from its harmful and potentially dangerous effects. It is an essential tool for any parent who cannot be around to physically watch over their child’s use of the Internet.
Internet filtering and parental control software program In relation to the tips for children listed above, iProtectYou can help in the following ways;
You can use it to block any personal information from being sent over the Internet; from your credit card numbers to your address.
It offers an advanced monitoring system that enables you to check on the activity of your child at a later time that is convenient to you.
You can limit the times that your child can use the Internet (and the computer as a whole,) and the websites that he or she has access to.
You can block your child from entering chat rooms and instant messaging programs (MSN, ICQ, Yahoo, AOL messengers), and so lessening the dangers of predators being able to communicate with your child.