Internet Safety Tips for Parents

When my generation was growing up, the internet was science fiction, but for our youngest children, the internet is as ubiquitous as sugary breakfast cereal, and can sometimes be just as detrimental. I recently ran across an article in the Florence, Alabama based Times Daily about child internet safety. The paper interviewed Jim Fisher, a local Board of Education member who also owns a computer company about how to keep children safe on the internet. I thought some of his answers were important to share.

According to Fisher, when it comes to internet usage, safety always comes first, and parents should be hyperaware of what their elementary school age children are up to online. While it took me awhile to learn the ins and outs of the internet, my children will learn how to use it almost as soon as they are old enough to go to school. There’s always a danger involved when children know more than their parents, so parents must be vigilant about educating themselves about the perils and dangers of the internet. We all worry about our children being exposed to sexual predators, but children can also open themselves up to identity theft or other crimes.

Said Fisher, most of the parents he sees come through his shop have no idea what their children are looking at on the internet. Topics he mentioned included “pornography, illicit music, drugs, gang violence and all sorts of things to induce insomnia in a parent.”

Fisher recommended monitoring software such as the popular NetNanny for any parent who felt they did not have control over their child’s internet usage habits.

But, he said, as children grew into teenagers, he recommended parents “let the leash out slowly” and feed kids “bite-sized chunks of responsibility as they mature.” Still, he offered a few useful tips for parents to monitor internet usage, even by teenagers:

1.) Always keep the computer in a highly visible, centrally located place in the home. Children are less likely to look at things they know they shouldn’t when they are being physically monitored.
2.) Use internet monitoring and filtering software to keep children and teens away from restricted sites such as those having to do with pornography and violence
3.) Take an internet safety training course. Our kids, of course, are way ahead of us when it comes to internet usage. Stay up to date on all the latest internet safety information by taking a course or checking out a website like WiredSafety.org.

Fisher’s take on internet safety was interesting and important. How do you feel about internet safety? When it comes to teens, do you favor his advice of “letting the leash out slowly” or do you feel that teenagers deserve internet privacy? On the other hand, do you think that children, even teens, should not be allowed any internet privacy at all? Weigh in about this important modern age issue in the comments.