Kids and Teens on the Internet: What Parents Should Know
As families and schools across the world are "logging on," parents and educators face the issue of protecting children from adult material on the Internet. Pornography, hate literature, bomb formulas, online gambling, and adult chat rooms are just some of the websites with easy access. Since recent studies suggest that children using the Internet learn at accelerated rates, the question is not how to keep kids offline but rather how to let kids use online technology safely. Online safety basics combined with filtering software can take some of the bumps out of the information superhighway and make the Internet a fun and interesting learning experience.Online safety basics
Consider placing the computer in a "family room" and make using the Internet a family activity. Check the screen periodically. Let your children know that you are interested in what they are learning online. If your children are more familiar with the Internet than you are, let them teach you about it. You may want to have your children acquaint you with their online pals and email friends. Talk to your children about correspondence with strangers and how they should handle unfamiliar email. Children should know never to give out their real name, address or telephone number, or agree to meet with someone in person.Commercial online services such as America Online offer parental controls that screen public content and provide online hosts to monitor chat rooms, as well as "logs" or audit trails of online interaction. Adult Bulletin Board Systems (stand alone dial-in systems) are easy to access with any communications software and advertised in many computer magazines, so check out any unfamiliar telephone numbers on your bill. Rating systems and filtering software
Many companies have provided solutions to give children their "very own Internet" while protecting the free flow of information between adults. Rating systems, like the one created by SafeSurf, allow website publishers to voluntarily rate their sites according to categories that identify levels of adult themes such as sex, nudity, and violence. This gives parents the flexibility to set levels of content access according to their own personal standards. Many of the filtering products and new versions of web browsers have built-in support for rating systems. Parents and educators can help by letting website publishers know that they are looking for rating labels on their sites. A number of filtering software products are also available to help parents guide their child's online activity. The partnership between parents and educators, software publishers and rating systems can ensure an enjoyable online experience for everyone.
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