Internet Safety For Kids
As we all know kids today have access to more information than any time in history. The up side is no more last minute trips to the library for a school report that’s due tomorrow. The down side is that kids have access to all information society has to offer, good and bad. As a parent I believe that it is our job to protect our children from hazardous material and from people with misguided intentions. The problem is as technology grows our grasp of control diminishes.
When we discovered our children were erasing their browsing history we knew it was time to limit their internet access (and take their computers out of their bedrooms). We began using SAFE EYES software designed for internet safety for kids. It filters what your children can see according to your parameters. Not only does it restrict certain websites it also sends you a report of what your child has been googling. Now some parents may feel like this is an invasion of your child’s privacy. I feel it’s a window into your child’s mind so that you can know what kinds of discussions to have with them. Personally I believe every now and then we parents should go through their bags, check out their sock drawers, and even go through their text and email history because as parents we have the right to know.
The trick is the approach afterwards. Don’t repeat everything you find out. Pick your battles and discuss, perhaps in generalities, the dangers of “insert your teen’s vice here.” Knowledge is power. Keep it real, and allow them to opt out of specifics if you can get your point across without embarrassing them. When your teenager keeps things hidden, they become darker than they really are. An open conversation about oral sex, drug-using friends, and other taboo subjects is much better than no conversation at all. Remember these things are in their heads already and they are talking about them with their friends. Make your kid feel comfortable (or at least not condemned) when approaching you with questions. They say they don’t, but they actually do want to talk to you about what’s on their mind.
While Safe Eyes is great for home it doesn’t fix the problem of all the other places your child has access to the internet. Everywhere I see kids playing with internet phones, iPods, and portable game systems. These devices are great to keep your child occupied, but they also provide unrestricted access to the internet. A fellow parent joked they should rename the PSP to PPD (Portable Porn Device). You want to give your child opportunities to make right choices, but kids don’t have the ability to self censor. You should think twice before buying your child a portable internet device. Remember their brains aren’t fully formed yet!
Internet safety is important for all of the children in your home. If an older child opened a porn site on your computer, guess what your toddler is going to see next time they go to play pbskids.org. Being young parents, my husband and I are very aware of what our children are currently into. Honestly we are constantly shocked at how clueless older parents of teens are. Their kids have multiple accounts on different social networking and gaming websites and they don’t have a clue. Discuss each site with your child and keep a record of their usernames and passwords. Things your kids try to hide are usually things they shouldn’t be doing. Internet predators want your kids to be secretive with you. In fact they’re counting on it.
Internet safety is just another of the long list of important topics parents with tweens and teens have to address. Remember with your older children you only have a few years left to guide them about important life choices. Don’t let them be influenced only by their friends. Be involved, get in their business and make choices that you know are the best for them. They’ll hate you now for caring, but parenting isn’t a popularity contest.
To learn more about Safe Eyes click here.
Here is a list of websites to help you discuss internet safety with your kids.