The Internet, like the rest of society, is made up of a wide array of people.
Since there are no actual rules for the Internet, here are some guidelines, which will make your journey much more enjoyable.
Remember that the vast majority of Internet users are decent and respectful, but some may be rude, obnoxious, insulting, or even mean and exploitative.
Always remember that if thinking about doing something makes you feel uncomfortable, that it is probably wrong. When in doubt, ask.
- I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I will never agree to get together with someone 1: "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
- I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If :1 do 3: will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the service provider.
- I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online and appropriate sites for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
- Never give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number. This is true especially in a public chat room or bulletin board. Moreover, be sure you're dealing with someone both you and your child know and trust before giving it out via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or not listing your child's name if your service allows it.
- Get to know the services your child uses. If you don't know how to log on, get your child to show you. Find out what types of information are offered and whether there are ways for parents to block out objectionable material.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child.
- Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.
- Should you become aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843- 5678. You should also notify your online service.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or even hear the person, it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him or herself. Thus, someone indicating that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could be a 40-year-old man.
- Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that seems "too good to be true" probably is. Be very careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
- Be sure to make this a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child's bedroom. Get to know their "online friends" just as you get to know all of their other friends.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer.
Safety on The Internet
There are several ways to protect your children from exposure to pornography, explicit language and other inappropriate interactions on the Internet. Use an online service that gives you good parental control. Familiarize yourself with your Parental Control Center and use it to block:
Chat-rooms, forums, conference rooms and member rooms: These are the areas of greatest risk for exposure to unwanted exchanges. They are not set up for children and are not a good way to spend their time or your money.
Instant messages: These are immediate person-to-person conversations. They can only be viewed by the sender and receiver.
Bulletin Board Services: These again are freewheeling interest driven exchange areas. They are not necessary for children.
News Groups: You have the option to block all news groups or to use a program that blocks news groups by specific words. Programs are now available which help parents keep open access to appropriate news groups and to block all news groups with potentially explicit material.
Use the Log option described earlier and check it at least once a week. Do you know what areas your children are accessing? Do you know how much time they are spending online?
More simply stated, set up your system so your children are able to use the Internet as a resource not as an interactive system. It's greatest value lies in this area and the risks are minimal in this area. If you're not sure how to do this, call your service provider and they will walk you through the steps.
Monitoring Children's User of The Internet
It bears repeating that you have to take the lead in protecting your children in the computer age as well as in the park. This means knowing what's going on. On-line services are very responsive to parents and safety concerns. They are making it easier and easier for us to monitor what is going on, where our children are spending their time and how much money is spent on the Internet.
Get on the Internet yourself. It opens communication between children and parents. Your children want you to know why the Internet is important to them. You need to participate and you need to be the voice for balance. The Internet is more seductive than television.
It can be an extraordinary tool and friend or it can be a sinkhole for time and money. As a parent, you need to take the lead and keep it.