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Online Safety - What parents need to know

When your kids start to interact on the Internet -- playing games, watching YouTube videos, socializing in virtual worlds, getting homework help, and searching on Google -- you may feel that you're losing control over your kids' world.

The best way to wrap your arms around your kids' online activities is to spend some time with them while they're visiting their favorite sites. Talk with them about what they like and what they don't.

Kids today can go online from so many different sources, including video game consoles, iPhones and smart phones, and even handheld gaming devices. Young people are increasingly living their lives online, and their digital devices are some of their favorite toys and tools.

Shouldn’t this new playground be a safe and nice place? With your guidance, it can be. Teaching Internet safety in the elementary years will have lasting rewards for you and your kids.

Internet Safety Basics

Help your kids understand that they should:

  • Never share their names, schools, ages, phone numbers, or addresses;

  • Never send pictures to strangers;

  • Keep passwords private (except to parents);

  • Never open email from strangers – it may contain viruses that can harm a computer; and

  • Immediately tell an adult if something mean or creepy happens.

Strategies for a responsible -- and safer -- online life

  • Visit only age-appropriate sites. Check out the site before your kids visit it. Know what features and what content exist and make sure they’re good for your kids.

  • Search safely. Use safe search settings for young kids or think about applying filtering software to limit inappropriate exposure.

  • Avoid strangers. Tell your kids that people aren’t always who they say they are in cyberspace. Explain that if someone they don’t know talks to them, they shouldn’t respond but should let you know.

  • Be a good cyber citizen! Remind kids that an Internet playground is still a playground and they need to play nicely. A good rule of thumb: If they wouldn’t do something in real life, they shouldn’t do it online. Find out how your children can report mean behavior or unkind content on their favorite sites and teach them how to do it.

  • Online cheating? It’s still cheating and it’s a no-no – pure and simple.

  • Keep the computer in a central place. So you can see what’s going on.

  • Establish expectations and limits about the amount of time your children spend online and what they do. Check out our family media agreement for a helpful place to start.

  • View your own habits carefully. You are their role models.

  • But, mostly, be involved and have fun with them! Keeping kids safe and teaching them how to use digital technology responsibly is all about staying involved. Start by showing interest in the sites they visit and the games they play and your job will be a lot easier when they start exploring these technologies more independently.

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