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Keeping kids safe on the Internet

Monitoring your child’s online experience

Posted: September 8, 2008 10:51 p.m.
Updated: November 10, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 

The Internet has become a primary information source for students as they research projects, homework assignment and scholarly papers.

But with Internet research comes the risk of youngsters coming across Web sites that aren't kid-friendly.

Because the unsavory parts of the Internet are a few clicks away, parents need to monitor what their kids are doing online.

"First of all, kids going online is a great thing that should be for homework and current news," said Deputy Laurie Baylis of the Crime Prevention Unit of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.

"What they want to keep in mind is who they're talking to online."

With that, Baylis suggests parents keep the home computer in a visible area, preferably a family room or near the kitchen, giving parents the ability to monitor what sites kids are viewing and who might be talking to them online.

"Putting them in a bedroom with the door shut - it's the worst thing," Baylis said.

Before kids can go online, Baylis recommends parents need to set up a written agreement outlining online guidelines.

That means keeping track of how much time can be spent on the computer, the type of Web sites kids can visit and how and when they can access a computer.

That time can also be an opportunity for parents to remind their kids never to give out personal information. It should also be a forum to talk to kids about chat rooms and setting up online accounts at networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Baylis recommends that children don't set up personal profiles online.

As kids set up e-mail addresses and navigate through the online world, Baylis said, parents should keep track of all the passwords and user information their kids have.

Even though Baylis acknowledges that a child's privacy is important, she said children will be more careful if they know their parents can keep track of their online behavior.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers a sample contract on its Web site that has kids pledge to not send pictures of themselves to strangers, not respond to e-mails and online conversations that make them uncomfortable, and to be a "good online citizen" and notifying their parents of anything unusual they come across.

Parents can set their own boundaries for where kids can go online.

Internet software is available for parents to set up filters for what sites are allowed for their youngsters, Baylis said.

"They don't have to be a whiz at the computer to get that stuff," she said.

The filters serve as good barriers for kids.

"They protect kids from going into certain sites," she said.

For those who don't want to install software themselves, Baylis said parents can take their equipment to a computer store to set up all the safeguards they want.

However, parents can take their own measures.

Schools already have filters set up to protect kids from visiting inappropriate Web sites at school, and similar filters can be set up for home computer.

Because kids are becoming more Internet savvy, parents need to remain informed about what Web sites their kids are visiting and why.

"The more they know about Web sites, the better tools they're going to have to protect kids," Baylis said.
Ultimately, online safety for kids equates to parents adequately communicating with their kids.

"The bottom line is communication and being involved with what kids are doing," she said.

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