The best ways to keep kids safe online are to talk to them about how to stay safe on the Internet, filter what they see and where they can go, and monitor your child’s Web browsing.
Make sure your kids know that people on the Internet may not be whom they say they are. Teach them to never give personal information to anyone. Be sure they understand that messages or pictures they send are not truly private or anonymous, and that friends might forward them to others. Also explain that school administrators and eventually employers sometimes look at online profiles, so they have to understand the potential long-term implications of their actions.
It is a good idea to set expectations for online behavior and then monitor what they are doing. You can look at the browser history (control + H on Internet Explorer, for example) to see where they have been. It also helps to keep your computer in a central location and restrict Internet access during sleeping hours to limit your child’s curiosity to try to visit “off limits” Web sites.
You also have several options for filtering what your children can see and where they can go online. Some browsers have built-in features, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer Content Advisor and Apple Safari Parental Controls, although Firefox users have to download a plug-in. Many Internet service providers, including Cablevision’s Optimum Online, Verizon’s FiOS, AOL and others, also provide free downloadable parental control software, often including anti-virus and anti-spyware capabilities. There are many other security software programs that have been built for just this purpose.
McGruff SafeGuard is an easy-to-use service designed to help parents manage their kids' online activity in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and others. The service intelligently monitors ALL Internet activity for potential danger and allows parents to conveniently review their kids' activities on a secure Website, or to be notified of potentially dangerous situations via cell phone and email alerts.
Another resource is www.wiredsafety.com, a cyber-neighborhood watch group run by volunteers.
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