Online Safety: Basics for Parents

You Don’t Have to be a Computer Expert to Keep Your Child Safe Online

As parents, we want our children to be safe and responsible while using technology. We will have succeeded when each child can recognize and minimize the three main risks associated with all connected technology (i.e., iPods, instant messaging, chat, computer games, game consoles, cell phones, text messaging, webcams).

Three Main Risks Associated with all Connected Technology

  • Inappropriate Contact–Teach kids how to recognize and protect themselves against contact with cyber-bullies, hackers, phishers, and predators. People aren’t always who they say they are. Teach kids to keep away from Internet strangers: the Internet is a place to enhance existing relationships, not a place to meet new people.

  • Inappropriate Content–This includes both content that is viewed and content that is uploaded by kids. Help kids understand that the Internet is forever: everything they post online is tracked and stored and will follow them to future job interviews and college entrance interviews.

  • Inappropriate Conduct– Because the web environment can feel anonymous, some youth become disinhibited. Teach kids that the Internet is a public forum: anonymity is a myth. Help them be the good person online that they are when they’re offline.

Keep Current, Keep Communicating, Keep Checking

Once children understand the core risks, these three simple guidelines will help parents provide a safe and healthy experience online.

  • Keep Current with technology. You don’t have to be an expert, but a little understanding goes a long way towards keeping your child safe online. Get basic technical training and learn about new products as they’re released.

  • Keep Communicating with your children about everything they experience on the Internet. Know their lingo, and ask when you don’t understand something. Work to keep communication lines open.

  • Keep Checking your children’s Internet activity. Know where they go online. Let them know that you’ll keep checking because you want them to understand that the Internet is a public forum and never truly private.

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