RISMEDIA, June 4, 2008-June is Internet Safety month. With hundred of millions of teens, pre-teens-and adults-around the world using social networking sites, there’s no better time for parents to be aware of the fun, the benefits, the powerful attractions, and the potential risks that MySpace, Facebook and other similar sites offer their children.
InternetSafety.com, a leader in Internet safety solutions, has assembled a list of practical tips parents can use to ensure a safe networking environment for kids:
1. Show Interest – Ask questions about how your child’s preferred social networking site or sites work. Kids are generally happy to demonstrate their knowledge if you show genuine interest. You can even ask your teen to show you how to set up your own social networking site-a great way to visit your child’s page and see what’s been posted there.
2. Encourage Instinctive Responses – Kids often can instinctively do the right thing, which makes them their own first defense against those who may take advantage online. Encourage your children to avoid contact with people they “feel funny about.” Tell them to not reveal anything online they would not want a stranger to know. Limit the posting of pictures and remind them that once something is placed online, it can never be taken back.
3. Know Your Kids’ Passwords – If your child changes his or her password suddenly and refuses to share it with you, that’s trouble. Insist on knowing how to access his or her accounts-then keep their confidence by not sharing the information with their friends or siblings.
4. Set Hours for When Kids Can Access Social Networks – Late nights are the favorite time for predators to seek out their adolescent prey. Set firm limits not only for the time of day, but also the total amount of time, that your children may access social networking sites.
5. Be Aware of Alternate Access Points – Kids don’t have to access their social networks at home. Libraries, friends’ houses, even cell phones make the Internet easy to reach today. Keep up with what’s happening on your child’s social networking page and be aware when changes have been made despite the lack of access from home.
6. Exercise Your Parental Right to Supervise – There’s a difference between being snoopy and ensuring safe activity. You don’t have to read every last word of a personal message your son or daughter sends to a friend. But you do have the right-and the obligation-to see who your kids are talking to, and to know the general subject matter.
7. Check for Photos – By clicking on the Windows “Start” button, you’ll find the “Search” tool. Click on “Pictures, Music or Video,” the box next to “Pictures and Photos,” and finally “Search”. Ask your child to identify any photos of strangers, or any other pictures you find questionable.
8. Install Filtering Software – PC products like Safe Eyes allow parents to block or record Instant Messenger chats, limit e-mail use to prescribed addresses, block objectionable websites (including peer-to-peer file sharing programs that often expose kids to inappropriate material), and receive alerts when kids post personal information on social networking sites.
9. Watch for CyberBullying – Encourage your children to tell you immediately if they are being harassed online. Children also need to know that it is not acceptable to be a party to cyberbullying-or to remain silent when they know others are being harassed.
10. Don’t Lecture – Finally, if you should find reasons for concern, don’t browbeat, insult or condescend to your child. Have a discussion about values and why they are important. Respect your child but be firm. And most of all, lead by example. Parents have a powerful ability to influence their child’s behavior-and nothing is more powerful than someone who not only talks values, but lives them.
“Parents should never feel that their level of involvement in their child’s social network activity is excessive. Since 1998, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline has logged over 33,000 tips about children being enticed online for sexual acts,” said Shane Kenny, President and COO of InternetSafety.com. “Better that the parent error on the side of intrusion, rather than bear the consequences of doing nothing.”
For more information, visit www.InternetSafety.com.