Protecting your family

You may have heard stories about children and teenagers being exploited online, whether through unwanted overtures by adults or exposure to sexually oriented or violent material. Considering the tens of millions of kids who use the Web daily, the frequency with which these incidents occur is small. Yet they do happen.

Sites like MySpace.com that appeal to teenagers are a magnet for sexual predators who try to befriend teens and arrange to meet in person. Instant Messaging is another way that adults may initiate online contact with kids.

While it's true that inappropriate materials can be readily accessed over the Internet, this kind of content represents only a fraction of the vast collection of information online. The chances of a child accidentally stumbling across this inappropriate material are slim, as most sites now clearly post warnings and require visitors to register and provide credit card number to verify their age.

Unfortunately, a few high profile incidents obscure the fact that the Web also offers extraordinary resources for both adults and children – one reason why Internet access is a top priority for schools around the world.

Here are some simple steps to keeping your family safe online:

  1. Use common sense. Don't just connect your children to the Internet and turn them loose.
  2. Create a password for your computer. Set up a password to keep your child from accessing the Internet when you aren’t there to monitor.
  3. Monitor their activity. Ask them which sites they visit and why. Set up the computer in a common area so you can keep an eye on things. Check the Web browser's History file to see which sites they access.
  4. Set limits. It's up to you to determine when your kids can go online and how much time they spend.
  5. Use filtering software. Although not perfect, you can block selected websites. Here are some products to evaluate:
  6. Ask your kids to agree to these rules:
    • Don't give out a credit card number online or via e-mail.
    • Don't divulge any personal information without your approval. This includes posting personal data and photographs on a web page.
    • Make sure they let you know immediately if they encounter any material that makes them feel uncomfortable.
    • Never meet anyone they've communicated with online unless you are present or give your consent.