If you’re like most parents, you set up rules that your kids follow when they go outdoors to play. They have to let you know if they’re leaving the yard and where they plan to go. They know that some places are out of bounds. And when they ride a bike, they know to wear a helmet. If you treat your children’s online time like their outdoor time, you can help guard them against the dangers that exist for unsuspecting minors.
Many popular security software packages feature parental controls you can use to block inappropriate websites and content. But it’s even more important to instill in your children basic rules they can follow to protect themselves online. Start by setting age-appropriate limits for how much time per day they can spend online. Be clear about which social networking websites they can visit. Spend time talking with your children about the real dangers of sharing personal, seemingly innocent information online. Encourage them to use laptops and tablets in shared areas of your home, so it’s easier to monitor their online activity. Keep up with their accounts and passwords, and periodically ask to view their profiles and postings. Let your chlidren know they can always tell you if anything they encounter online makes them uncomfortable. You may want to do an online search for your child’s name to see if any personal information pops up.
Sure, your kids may think you’re just being overprotective. And you may need to explain that you trust them, but not everyone else on the Internet. Ultimately, it’s just about developing safe habits. After all, the world’s best cyclists on the Tour de France are rarely involved in a crash – but they always wear a helmet.