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Internet Safety
 

 Cyber Safety: Is technology safe for your child?

 
Cyber Safety
As parents, we certainly can’t be with our children constantly to monitor the potentially inappropriate material they may encounter. But we can help them learn to make good choices. We can take advantage of teachable moments to compare media content and messages to our family values--perhaps when watching a TV commercial or show, viewing a website, movie, or discussing the lyrics to a song.
 

Cyber safety is an important parent-child discussion to revisit frequently with your child, from elementary school through high school. Experts warn that children are most vulnerable to online dangers while in their own home.  While many potential dangers are filtered so students can’t access them at schools, parents sometimes forget that children may have direct access to inappropriate sites at home.

What you can do to keep your child safe:

  • Install software to filter and block inappropriate content on your home computer. The schools use these tools as well. Filters can be set to block Internet access completely or block certain sites like pornography, social media, and gaming. Further, filters allow a parent to completely control when access is open/closed to such sites. These same tools allow parents to control any wireless device, whether it is a laptop, a smartphone with a web browser, an iPod touch, and more. Without any filtering software at home, a user can get to any site on any device, including a desktop computer. 

Some possible filters to consider include OpenDNS (Here's a short, two minute instructional video for you describing how easy this is to do with free OpenDNS software)SafeEyes, and NetNanny, or if you have a newer computer with Microsoft Windows or Mac Snow Leopard, the software is built right into the operating system- it’s called Parental Controls and there is no need to buy anything else.

Filters can be set to block Internet access completely or block certain sites like pornography, social media, and gaming.  Further, filters allow a parent to completely control when access is open/closed to such sites. These same tools allow parents to control any wireless device, whether it is a laptop, a smartphone with a web browser, an iPod touch, and more.  Without any filtering software at home, a user can get to any site on any device, including a desktop computer. 

Take the time to set up some content filters for your children today. Kids are naturally curious and won't filter for themselves. Viewing portrayals of risky behavior can make it seem "normal" when it is not the norm. Often, the reality of negative consequences is left out, leaving kids with a skewed impression of normal standards of behavior, as well as unresolved questions and emotions about the implications of explicit content that they don't fully grasp.​
 

Other filters to consider:

    • Products are now available that monitor your child's posts and digital footprint/reputation on sites like Facebook and Twitter, such as SafetyWeb and Social Shield.

    • Turn on the free tools within Google and YouTube to activate stricter filters on web, image, and video searches. 

    • Cell phone providers offer filtering services parents can choose to activate. To learn more, simply Google your service provider with the words "parental controls." You can filter text messages as well as websites your child can access through her/his phone. There are also services you can purchase that will help you filter your child’s phone such as SafeEyesNetNanny, and Bsecure.  Some phone companies like Kajeet specifically offer filtered phones for children with a variety of additional control options.

    • TV cable companies offer filtering services as well. Again, simply Google your provider along with the words "parental controls" to learn how to access these features.

Other Important Parenting Tips:

 

 

  • Maintain open communication with your child about technology use, regularly asking your child about his or her computer activities.

  • Ask to get a tour of the sites your child visits.

  • Proactively set guidelines for computer use at your house, as well as when they are with friends.  Print off, discuss, and sign a Common Sense Family Media Agreement:
  • Know your child’s passwords. This enables you to gain access to their e-mail, social networking sites, etc. in case of an emergency.

  • Google family members to be aware of your cyber footprint online. Set up a Google Alert for each family member for free.
     
  • Anything we do or post online creates a digital record, often called your "Cyber Footprint." Nothing online is totally private, even if you intend it to be.  Once digitized, it can be saved, sent and reposted elsewhere.  Take a look at Protect My Rep
     
  • A good rule of thumb: If you don’t want a parent, teacher, principal, future employer or college admissions office to know something, don’t post it online.

  • "Friends" aren’t always who they say they are; undercover police and pedophiles pretend to be kids online. Watch iKeepSafe.org’s Faux Pas the Cat (Elementary Students) or discuss current news stories about this topic with Secondary Students.

  • Be cautious when posting personal information online. This includes: full name, address, phone number, email, cell phone, checking in on social media sites, where you are meeting friends or where you hang out. Discuss how easy it is for someone to find out about you based on what you post online.

  • While the Internet is an incredible resource with countless educational opportunities, there are also frightening dangers that kids can get involved in or be exposed to online. Pornography is often just a click away, and kids are curious. Social Networking sites like Facebook for teens (Webkinz and Club Penguin for younger students) are a popular way to connect with friends and meet new people, but these sites are mostly unsupervised and may push limits and test boundaries. Watch Social Networking in Plain English to understand how Social Networks operate. Videos on YouTube and similar sites with live web cams allow kids to be creative and share all sorts of content, some of which may be inappropriate or unwise to publish.

  • Cyberbullying (threatening or harassing another individual through technology), is a growing concern for today’s youth.  It takes many forms, such as forwarding a private email, photo, or text message for others to see, starting a rumor, or sending a threatening or aggressive message, often anonymously.  Talk with your child about not partaking in this behavior, and encourage her/him to report it to an adult.  Some videos online to help kids understand this include Ad Council Commercials Talent Show (Elementary and Middle School Students) or Kitchen (High School Students), as well as NetSmartz.org’s videos on Broken Friendship (Secondary Students) or You Can’t Take It Back (Secondary Students).  ThatsNotCool.com is a good resource about textual harassment and sexting. 
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    More helpful Internet safety resources for parents:

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