Internet Safety Guide For Parents:
Tips for Keeping Your Teen Safe Online
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Should I set internet rules for my family?
Yes! It is important that you talk to your family and set limits right from the start. Even if you feel that you don't know much about computers or the Internet, you can still help them think about ways to stay safe. Clear communication and expectations are essential. You can work together and agree on rules for using the Internet, such as whether it is okay to go on-line and when, what kind of Internet sites your teen is allowed to go to, and how to set up an e-mail account.
You and your teen can set up “filters” as a way of helping to keep her safe. Filters are programs or settings in your browser, IM, chat room, or email software that can prevent your teen from viewing or downloading harmful or unwanted material, such as hateful emails or pornography. You probably already have some filters available on the software that came installed on your computer, or through your Internet service provider. Setting these filters up together lets your family know what they will and won’t be able to access. If you prefer, you can set up these filters yourself, without your teen’s assistance or input. You can also purchase and install additional software to add a greater degree of filtering on your computer.
Can I trust everything that I read on the internet?
The answer is NO! Being able to tell if something on the Internet is reliable, accurate, true or real is tough for adults and even harder for your children. There is a lot of information out there. Some of it is good information but some of it is just not true. Everyone (including yourself) must first question any information they read on the Internet until they determine if the information is true or false. You’re probably wondering, how can I tell what information is okay and what isn't?
Here are some general tips on how to tell if a web site and information posted is reliable:
- Web sites that end in .gov are generally reliable because they are connected with our government.
- Look for the name of the organization, and the author of the web site and when the information was updated. Reliable web sites often have a list of references or contacts where you can find the source of the information.
- If you are looking for facts, check out a few different web sites to compare information. If you are in doubt, double check facts at the library. This way you will know which web sites give you correct information.
- Librarians and your children’s teachers are usually good resources to help you identify accurate and trustworthy web sites to go to. Once you find a reliable web site, you can bookmark it so you can find it easily later.
- Ask your teen's health care provider about web sites to go to for reliable health information. When you get a recommendation from a professional, it most likely will be a respected web site with accurate information.
- Reliable web sites usually have reliable links — so when you get lucky and find a great web site, you most likely will be able to find other good sites too.
What do I do if my teen tells me she accidentally went to an inappropriate Web site?
First praise her for telling you the truth and for asking for your help! Next, show her how to click the “back” button at the top of the web browser. This will bring her back to the original web site that she was viewing. If the problem is "pop-ups" (small windows with unwanted advertisements), tell her to just keep closing the windows by clicking the X button until she is back at the original page she was looking at. Make sure you ask your teen what web address she was visiting so that you can block the site from your computer. Many browsers track web activity, and create an Internet history. Remember that you, as the “owner” of the Internet account, may be able to check what web sites your teen has recently looked at. This way, you can remind your children not to go to any sites that are inappropriate.
Can I protect my teen from unsafe situations on the Internet?
With good communication, clear expectations, and proper limit-setting, as a parent, you are capable of protecting your teen. Here are 5 simple safety tips to follow:
- Teach your teen how to respond to any inappropriate encounters on the Internet. You won’t always be available to step in and handle situations when your teen is on-line.
- Monitor computer use. If your teen knows she is being supervised, the chances of her having inappropriate conversations with others decreases dramatically.
- Get involved in your teen's life. Talk to your teen about her dreams and aspirations. If you don't approve of an idea, brainstorm to come up with safe, acceptable alternatives.
- Get to know your teens on-line “friends”. Remind your teen that no matter how long she has communicated with someone on-line, if they have never actually met each other in real life, the person is still considered a “stranger.”
- ASK your teen about any suspicious activity. Chances are, while teens may not own up to everything, being asked in a straightforward manner offers teens a fair chance to talk about things that they know are not right. Once they find themselves in trouble, they may feel intimidated or scared to come to you for help, especially if you overreact. If you approach them in a calm, nonjudgmental way, they are much more likely to trust and confide in you.
Taking the time to learn more about parenting in this new era of technology is well worth it! You’ll find that some of the old warnings ingrained in us, such as “don’t talk to strangers” just need to be applied on-line as well. Teaching your teen about cyberspace etiquette and on-line safety will help her understand what types of on-line behavior and communication are acceptable and safe.
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This health guide is made possible by a grant from the The Comcast Foundation.