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Illinois Country Living

Dan Dawson
Dan Dawson, Prevention Educator, University of Illinois Extension

Safety & Health:

Keeping Your Children Cyber Safe
You can make the worldwide Web available yet safe for children

Families and schools across the world are “logging on” and parents and educators face the issue of protecting children from adult material and predators on the Internet. Since recent studies suggest that children using the Internet learn at an accelerated rate, the question is not how to keep kids offline but rather how to let kids use online technology safely. Using a combination of safety basics and some filtering software you can take some of the bumps out of the super information highway.

“My children understand it better than I do.” This phrase, expressed by parents with a home computer, modem and Internet access is very common. Our children, today, are more sophisticated and are more informed. E-mail, chat rooms and Web pages abound. Parents unfamiliar with the Internet are sure to feel a great deal of apprehension and intimidation. It’s important to protect our children and it’s also important that their use of the Internet be understood and encouraged. Online safety basics, combined with trust and honesty, can help our children grow up safely on the Internet express.

Children view the Internet as a very exciting and entertaining opportunity and have little or no fear of using it. Honesty is the most important segment of educating children about the dangerous side of this technology. Explain to your child that not everyone is who they say they are online, and tell them why.

A majority of teens often communicate online with people they have never met according to Teen Research Unlimited. Fifty-four percent have instant messaged a stranger, 50 percent have e-mailed a stranger and 45 percent have participated in a chat room with a stranger.

Teach your children not to be afraid to say “no” or “leave me alone” to messages that make them uncomfortable, and let them know that they can always come to you with any problems they encounter.

Parents need to advise children to never give out their real name, address or telephone number on the Internet – or to meet with an online friend in person without your permission or a parent present.

Online safety basics:

  • Consider placing the computer in a ‘family room’ and check the screen periodically. Let your children know that you are interested in what they are doing online.
  • Look into safeguarding programs or options that your online service provider might offer – these may include blocking or filtering capabilities.
  • Always read a Web site’s privacy policy before giving any personal information.
  • Let children show you what they can do online and visit their favorite sites.
  • Allow your child to only use ‘child-friendly’ search engines or chat sites.
  • Get more informed about computers and the Internet.
  • Internet accounts should only be in the parent’s name with parents having the primary screen name, controlling passwords and using blocking and/or filtering devices

Open communication with your children can be one of the most important factors in their lives. Self esteem increases for a child when their thoughts, ideas and beliefs are respected by a parent or caring adult. As they apply the morals and good judgment taught by you they will build a better world around them – both on and off line.

For More Information:

Dan Dawson, Prevention Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Springfield Extension Center, 217-782-6515.


© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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