GUIDELINES FOR PARENTS
Its not always easy to supervise kids. Many children,
older adolescents in particular, might resist your attempts to exert influence
on them. But part of parenting is encouraging children to live up to high
expectations of trust and responsible behavior, while at the same time
recognizing that making mistakes is a natural part of growing up. When
it comes to guidance about any issue, an atmosphere of trust and open
communication is essential.
As you provide Internet guidance, be aware that children might be unrealistically
confident in their ability to handle themselves online. A study by the
Scout Research Institute found that 84 percent of girls surveyed said
they relied on their own common sense when determining whether something
online was safe or unsafe.
Here are three big-picture steps you can
take to put your kids on the road to safe, responsible, and fun surfing:
1. Become Internet savvy.
2. Set up a model Internet
3. Talk to your kids
about Internet dos and donts.
1. Become Internet Savvy
If you develop a basic understanding of whats
on the Internet and how children use it, your parenting will be more
Dont be intimidated if you havent done much on the Web except
e-mailing or shoppinganyone can learn about how the Internet works.
And dont be afraid to admit to your children that they are probably
more Net savvy than you. Whats most important is to understand
the Internet within the context of your childrens own experiences.
- Spend time with kids as they surf. Ask questions
about what theyre doing and why theyre doing it. Pay
attention to how their age and maturity
- Find out what kind of Web content, on Web sites,
in chat rooms, and so on, attracts your children's attention.
- Keep general tabs on what your kids are exploring
online, just as you would oversee their schoolwork.
- Learn about tools and
programs that promote Internet safety. Tap into well-regarded parental
resources such as GetNetWise.org,
Children's Partnership. Seek out local libraries and nonprofit groups
that offer further assistance and training.
- Talk to other adults, such as teachers or parents,
who can share their experiences or knowledge with you.
- Ask your childrens school
administrators, teachers, or librarians about the steps theyre
taking to teach information literacy and Internet safety. Although
all schools have Internet use agreements called Acceptable Use Policies,
or AUPs, far fewer devote time
to instruction on how to safely obtain and evaluate information on
Web. Confirm that the school’s Web site doesn’t post student
names or photos.
2. Set Up a Model Internet
Children can access the Internet from many places,
but at home you can control their environment and help them learn safe
surfing habits. The lessons learned at home will stay with them wherever
- Keep the computer out of your childs bedroom.
Instead, set it up in an area thats used by the entire family.
This not only discourages children from misbehaving on the Web, it keeps
you or another adult close by to provide help when they need it.
- Choose your children’s online names carefully.
Dont use actual first names as any part of a screen name, and
dont reveal gender. Also, dont allow your children to use
screen names that reveal age (for example, DeeDee2005).
- Offer kids appealing, age-appropriate Web sites
that theyll enjoy. Knowing whats good on the Internet is
at least as important as knowing whats bad.
- Keep a close eye on anyone who, previously unknown,
begins to pay a lot of attention to your child online.
- Consider creating an Internet
use agreement that can help formalize your talks with kids and prevent
- Ask older, more-experienced siblings or other
family members to supervise, encourage, and guide younger children.
- Set good examples for responsible Internet use.
Parents who view sexually explicit images online might leave traces
of the viewing that their children can find later. It might be smart
to avoid activities that raise questions for your child.
- Deal with an event constructively by reviewing
it with your child, discussing why the content was inappropriate, how
to get rid of it, how to avoid it in the future, and, if necessary,
how to report it to your Internet service
provider (ISP) or the appropriate law-enforcement agency.
3. Talk to Your Kids about
Internet Dos and Donts
Parents need to be Internet aware, but so do kids.
Here are safety suggestions and important issues to discuss with your
children, including how they should respond to any potentially negative
situation, whether youre present or not.
- Discuss the benefits and dangers of the Internet,
providing clear guidance about what materials and activities are important
and why. Ask for feedback and listen closely to your childrens
- Make sure your children understand that they shouldnt
believe everything they see or hear online.
- Instruct children never to send pictures of themselves
or reveal personal information to anyone online without your permission.
Personal information includes their age, address, telephone number,
your work address or phone numbers, the name and location of their school,
or the teams they play on. This information should also be kept out
of personal Web pages, online profiles, and any chats, e-mails, and
- Urge children to alert you if they encounter something
or someone on the Internet that makes them feel uncomfortable, whether
through an image or a message.
- Make sure your kids understand that they should
never get together with anyone theyve met online without
your permission. If you do agree to such a meeting, make sure it happens
in a public place and that youre there with them.
- Rehearse with children the actions they should
take if they view off-limits content or if someone contacts them
an inappropriate manner. Remind them that they can walk away from the
computer or even turn it off if theyre uncomfortable with
something they see or hear online. Above all, they should never
respond to messages
or bulletin-board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent,
threatening. Instruct them to give you a copy of any such message that
you can forward to your Internet service provider (ISP).