Internet Safety—What Parents Can Do
Realizing the reality of the Internet, what can parents do to protect their children and have some peace of mind as their children and teens go online?
The Internet is an important part of your children’s lives. Know that your child needs to be online and protect him and her by setting rules and being open to hearing about their good and bad experiences online.
Tips for safety
- Talk with your child and teen about the Internet, what is on there, what they might encounter—creepy, unsolicited, scary stuff. Let them know they can come and talk to you about it and you can work together to filter out or block unwanted websites and emails.
- Look into safeguarding programs or options your online service provider might offer. These may include monitoring or filtering capabilities.
- Create computer rules or consider using the Internet safety pledge from NetSmartz Workshop. The pledge can be signed by adults and children and should be periodically reviewed.
- The Internet is very much a part of the lives of teens today—on average teenagers spend five hours a week on the Internet. Ask them; how they use the Internet, do they enter chatrooms, who are they speaking with and about what, do they have more than one e-mail, do they have their own website or webpage? Review these with your teen to make sure he or she is safe.
- Remind your child that Internet predators pose as teenagers as a means to meet teenagers and harm them.
- Talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they first "met" online.
- Tell your child to never send personal information out over the Internet, including name, address, phone number, or information about their personal appearance.
- Websites for children are not permitted to request personal information without a parent's permission.
- If your pre-teen or teen has a webcam, is posting personal photos to a website, chatroom or email, view these materials and ask your child how he or she wants them to be used on the Internet.
- Remind your child that the Internet is public. What your pre-teen or teen puts on the Internet is available to the public all around the world, and he or she cannot get it back once it is out there.
- Talk to pre-teen and teen about not responding to offensive or dangerous E-mail, chat, or other communications. Report any such communication to local law enforcement. Do not delete the offensive or dangerous E-mail; turn off the monitor, and contact local law enforcement. They will need that e-mail to track down the offender.
- Increase your own knowledge about computers, technology and the Internet. Visit the resources section on NetSmartz Workshop to find additional information on Internet safety.
- Have your pre-teen and teen show you what they do online. Visit the websites they visit with them. Discuss videos that you consider inappropriate.
- Be aware of any other computers your child may be using. Some cell phones now offer Internet and e-mail access.
- Internet accounts should be in the parent's name with parents having the primary screenname, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering devices.
- Children should not complete a profile for a service provider and children's screennames should be nondescript so as not to identify that the user is a child. Never use a child's name as a screenname.
- Talk to other parents, school officials and other adults about Internet use and misuse, how it is affecting your community and what they are doing about it. The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office provides information on Internet safety to schools and organizations. Visit the online safety section of the AG's web site for more information.
- Web logs - or blogs - are online diaries where users place comments for others to read. If your child uses a blog, talk to them about never offering personal information or posting provocative pictures or comments. Remind them, again, that material posted to the web should be viewed as permanent. Don't take risks.
- Remember, the Internet is a valuable tool for you and your child that you should use, enjoy and feel comfortable with.
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of the Massachusetts Children’s Trust Fund.