When it comes to your family and their online safety, there are several things that you should consider. In Safety 101: Making sure your family is safe online, I’m going to explore some important factors that can help your family in their time online.
Safety 101 Step 1: Parental Controls
The first thing I recommend when you are working with your child’s online usage is to setup a separate account for them on the computer, and to turn on parental controls for that account. By enabling parental control over your child’s computer account, it will give you control over the sites they can visit, and even the applications they can run on the computer. This will allow you to have a conversation with your children about why this site or that site isn’t allowed to be accessed, and will help you teach them about the importance of online security.
Safety 101 Step 2: Monitor Social Networks
Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. MySpace. The list of social networking sites goes on and on. While these sites can be fun and a useful way for your children to keep up with their friends, it’s especially important that you make sure that you know what sites your child is on. Some tips to help with this include making sure that you know the passwords for their account, and that it isn’t changed without you knowing and working with your child on that. Additionally, make part of the permission to access these sites be that you have to friend or follow them. Also, make sure that your child is aware of the dangers of communicating location information to those that you don’t know online. Online safety extends into your offline world as well, and by not being safe online, it could very well lead to security issues offline.
Safety 101 Step 3: Have a no-online policy
Far too often, we spend way to much time online, staring at our computer monitors. I’m as guilty of this as anyone, and it’s one of the reasons why having a no-online policy is a good idea. Setup designated times when being online is acceptable; for example, consider setting a policy where it’s okay to be online from 4-6PM each day, or perhaps for an hour after lunch and an hour after dinner each day. The timing is up to each family, of course, as is the duration, but having a policy in place will help your children be keeping them active in ways other than just online activities.
Safety 101 Step 4: Designate areas where online usage is allowed
Just as it’s important to set guidelines on the time of day when your child can be online, it’s also important to set guidelines to the location in the house where your child can access the internet. In our family, the rule that my wife and I have set in stone is that our daughter is not allowed to use her computer in her room, with very few exceptions (which happen so infrequently that they are truly exceptions). For our daughter, that means using her computer in the family room, or the dining room, depending on what is going on. This allows for some oversight in what she’s doing just by glancing at her computer.
Safety 101 Step 5: Explore using internet accountability software
Lastly, one evolving area for keeping your children (or yourself, for that matter) safe online is in the use of internet accountability software. Tools such as Covenant Eyes, Net Nanny, K9 Web Protection, and Cybersitter (to name a few) are all designed to help you in your online life stay safe and secure. Most come with a price, but if they work, then it could be the best investment you ever made. In future posts, I’m going to explore the more popular of these tools and give my recommendations on the ones for you to use.
In summary, the key to keeping your children safe online is vigilance. Your child thinks that they are not vulnerable online, and as a result, it is up to you to teach them internet safety to ensure that something doesn’t happen to them while they are online. Some would argue perhaps that by implementing these steps I’m just showing my child that they can’t be trusted. I, however, would counter that it isn’t my child that I don’t trust — it is those that she encounters online that can’t be trusted.
What do you do to ensure the safety of your child online? Please let us know in the comments or subscribe to our newsletter, and thanks for stopping by!