By Karen Barney, Communications Coordinator, ITRC
It is time for all of us – still living in the slow lane – to face the reality that we live in a world becoming more and more reliant (yes, dependent!) on the Internet. Banking, social networking, business connections and homework are all being conducted online. While many adults are becoming increasingly aware of the need for security measures when conducting financial, business and social transactions, the same cannot be said for children and teenagers.
Our children are being taught essential computer skills in the classroom as early as pre-school. By the time they reach middle school, they are well on their way to being more computer savvy than many parents. While “computer literacy” and world-wide web access enables children and teens to “browse” the Internet for such positive things as educational and entertainment purposes, it also exposes them to a growing number of negative areas. This includes strangers in chat rooms, exposure to inappropriate images and products, and increased vulnerability to those seeking to obtain personal information for fraudulent purposes.
How then, do we as parents or caregivers, help them navigate through the potentially dangerous waters of the Internet?
- Communicate the importance of never providing personal information online. Discuss the need for them to maximize privacy settings on social networking sites. Most importantly, remind them that messages and photos they send, are “out there forever” when posted on social networking sites, and are easily transferred to anyone.
- Educate them on the areas of potential threats and hazards associated with downloading games and other media. Viruses and malware are often attached or hidden in these types of activities.
- Install security software such as firewalls, antivirus programs and privacy filtration software. Make sure your wireless home network is encrypted.
- Place the computer in a family room, or other highly visible centralized location.
- Monitor where they go online. Set the Internet browser security feature to high. Check out browser history in the web browser menu. Implement parental controls to block inappropriate websites. Consider setting time limits on how long and when they can access the Internet.
- Maintain open lines of communication with your children regarding any concerns they may have over inappropriate or disturbing messages they may receive. Even the strongest security measures may not catch everything.
Remember that much of this also pertains to web access on smart phones and other hand held devices. Most plans allow you to set limits on downloads, internet access and texting.