The Internet, chat-rooms, emails; it all seems to have exploded over the last few years. This technology is now a part of our everyday life. But, we must be cautious about how children use the Internet. Here are some things to consider:
- Be involved. Understand how your child uses the computer, including how they access the Internet. The best way to learn is to have them show you.
- Ask questions. What places are they visiting online? What chatrooms do they frequent? What kind of emails do they receive? What games do they play?
- Set guidelines regarding privacy. Don't let your child give out personal information to strangers; this includes address, phone number, family income and where they go to school.
- Treat online friends with the same caution as regular friends. Get to know them. Never allow your child to meet a stranger without supervision.
- Place a time limit on Internet usage. It should never take the place of homework. It should also not be used as a babysitter.
- Use blocks and filters. Most online providers have designated "child accounts" that limit access to the Internet. There is also software that blocks inappropriate material. However, this is not foolproof. The best bet is to communicate with your child about what is and is not appropriate for them.
- Screen any video games before giving them to your child. Many games contain graphic violence that is not suitable for children.
- Keep the lines of communication open. If your child receives anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or confused, have them consult you immediately.
- Teach your child to treat strangers online as they would strangers in life. Since you rarely see or hear the people on the Internet, it can be easy to deceive. Someone claiming to be a 10-year-old girl could actually turn out to be a 40-year-old man.