Our society today relies heavily on the use of computers. The work force practically mandates the use of computers in most types of jobs, we send letters and communicate via e-mail, schools ask students to research topics and type reports, and computer games are almost limitless. While the Internet has many benefits and puts world-wide information at our fingertips, unfortunately it poses some safety risks for kids today.
Here are some computer safety tips you can follow at home to help protect your children:
Allow computer use only in high traffic rooms.
While it’s tempting to put the computer in a child’s room for homework purposes, the best place is a living room or family room. This way parents are able to monitor their child’s activities on the computer. You can see what sites your child is visiting, what games he/she is playing, and who he/she is Instant Messaging. This gives you more control over computer behavior and sends the message to your children that you care (and are aware of) what they are doing on the computer.
Instruct your child never to give out important information over the computer.
Let your child know it is not okay to give out his/her name, address, phone number, city, state, or school location over the computer. Even giving out the family (or their own) e-mail needs parent approval. Evaluate photos or video clips before allowing your child to upload them to ensure they do not contain identifying information. This helps limit the number of people who know how to contact your child.
Block Specific Sites.
There are many programs that can block the content of certain websites, making them off-limits for children. Installing a firewall on your family’s computer not only will block access to certain sites, but will also prevent unauthorized users from entering your computer. Most browsers have the ability to block specific sites from use, but you’ll need to install software if you’re looking to comprehensively block and monitor numerous sites. Also, keep in mind that schools automatically install firewalls onto their network systems, which helps make using computers at school safe.
If you think your child is visiting inappropriate sites, or is being targeted or contacted by a person you don’t know, the FBI has issued an informational publication that discusses in more detail potential online dangers and what to do in these situations. With a little computer safety education, your child will be able to enjoy the benefits of technology and the World Wide Web once again.