Internet Safety Tips
While the Internet is a valuable resource, there are inherent risks associated with children navigating the World Wide Web. Parents have often requested ideas and tips for keeping their children safe while on the computer. In 2020, Kerry O'Rourke (Library Media Specialist) and I created the Digital Citizenship: Teaching Children to be Safe and Responsible Online parent brochure. We hope that you find it to be helpful.
In addition, we would like to offer the following general Internet Safety Tips:
Usernames, Passwords, and Personal Information
- Children should not have a screen name or email address that could identify them as a minor, nor should it reveal their entire first name or last name.
- Explain to your child that he/she should never give out personal information online. He/she should never share information such as his/her full name, age, home address, school name, or telephone number.
- Remind your child to never share his/her username and password with anyone, including close friends.
- Computer passwords should be a minimum of 8 characters in length and should include numbers, symbols, and a combination of upper and lowercase letters. Passwords should not include a word from the dictionary.
- Children should never post pictures of themselves online, or pictures of their friends without the friend's permission.
- Using age appropriate vocabulary, talk with your child about online behavior, safety, and security as soon as he/she begins using the Internet. It is never too early to start discussing the importance of being safe and responsible when going online. Sharing your values and beliefs often helps your child make smarter decisions later.
- Become familiar with the web sites your child is visiting and bookmark his/her favorite sites for easy access, thus avoiding potentially unsafe searches.
- Encourage your child to use child-friendly search engines when completing his/her homework.
- Insist on having access to your child's computer account, and when/if necessary, check his/her email and online browser history.
- The computer your child uses most often should be kept in a common room in the house where you can closely watch and monitor its use. An Internet capable computer should not be located in your child's bedroom. Be especially wary of laptops and personal handheld wireless devices (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, etc.) since their mobility can result in unmonitored Internet usage.
- Consider using age-appropriate filtering, blocking and monitoring software on all Internet-enabled devices used by your child, including laptops, wireless devices, and video game players. Oftentimes, parental controls are provided by your Internet service provider or through your computer's operating system. While you should utilize these controls to block inappropriate content, they should not be relied upon solely since there is no way any single product can monitor and block all of the inappropriate sites online.
- Be sure your child knows he/she should never try to purchase anything online.
Social Media Web Sites
- Point out to your child that there are very clearly stated age requirements for establishing an account on most online social media web sites, including FaceBook, Google Plus, SnapChat, Twitter, and Instagram.
- The use of chat rooms should be heavily monitored since they are often prowled by online predators. Only allow him/her in chat rooms that are run by an organization that monitors the online postings.
- Make sure your child knows to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online. Be sure to discuss how people often disguise their identity in chat rooms, especially online predators.
Being a Safe Digital Citizen and "Netiquette"
- Remind your child that online written communications should be polite, respectful, and free of sarcasm since a person's body language, mood, and intent can't be judged in an online environment.
- Keep abreast of the latest threats kids face online (cyberbullying, sexting, etc.) and educate yourself with information that will allow you to talk to your child about being a good digital citizen.
General Parenting Tips
- Determine what kinds of computer safeguards are utilized at the homes of your child's close friends. Without appropriate adult supervision, this is an area where your child could encounter online dangers.
- Set limits on your child's screen time. Finding a balance is the key. Spend time together online to teach your child appropriate online behavior and find time to discuss what your child enjoys doing most when online.
- Most importantly, create an environment where your child is comfortable talking to you about what they see and do online. Together, create a plan for what your child will do when he/she comes across something that makes him/her feel uncomfortable or scared. Encourage them to ask you questions and remember, accidents do occur.