The following is a post from contributing writer Annabelle (protecting your kids while they’re online)
It is important to know who your children are spending time with, and what they are doing online. Without this knowledge, you will have a hard time determining the possibility of “stranger danger,” trouble they might get into, or if they are being cyber bullied.
Create rules and stick to them
Decide what your expectations are for your children’s computer usage. Maybe you want to limit their time on Facebook to less than an hour a day, but are okay with them using it longer for school work.
Make decisions, and inform your children of the rules. Set up penalties for breaking the rules, and make sure they know what they are (try having a posted copy where they have to see it every time they go on the computer). Most importantly, stick with it.
Educate them and yourself
Did you know that sexting is a felony offense if the person posing is under 18? Neither do your children, but the fact is police consider it distributing child pornography. Remember that kid’s brains aren’t fully developed as teenagers; they lack the ability to think ahead about possible long term consequences of their actions. By sitting your children down and making sure they know what repercussions are, you are opening a line of communication that makes it possible to protect them from themselves, and to have an ongoing dialogue about their lives.
Children need to learn how to protect both their current and future selves. Social networking sites make it almost impossible to remove or edit material once it is uploaded. At the same time, it has become common practice for universities and human resource departments to review candidate’s online footprint before making decisions.
Monitor their computer usage
You have more power to see what your children do (and don’t do) on the computer than you realize. Computer systems have parental controls akin to your television. Not only can you look through the internet cookies (the digital fingerprints that tell you what websites and search engines have been accessed or what search terms have been entered) to determine where your kids have been, you can also control the settings to block certain content. School districts use such software to block undesirable content, but you also can implement such settings on your home computer or family’s phones. Look into what services your internet or phone provider can offer. Some, like clear wireless, might surprise you.
Annabelle is currently a loving and caring mother of two children. She lives outside of Milwaukee, WI and loves cheering for the Bucks and Badgers. She is a blog enthusiast and loves writing, and if she is not writing she is cleaning up after her two lovely angels. Annabelle can be reached at Annabellesmyth@gmail.com.