Every parent wants to keep their children safe, but as more and more children have unrestricted access to the Internet, parents are unable to track where their children are going online and how to protect them.
One example is social networking sites. Over the past few years, social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace have became the most visited sites on the Internet. For parents of teenagers – and even younger children – it is essential to understand why these websites are so attractive and how they operate. Together, social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace have more than 50 million members worldwide. Teenagers are attracted to these sites because they help them communicate with friends and family. Facebook, in particular, was originally created for use by college students and it enabled them to keep in near-constant contact with friends and families across the country and in the dorm room next door.
However, these websites have become troublesome when younger children adopt them. Parents need to restrict access to these sites and monitor how their children use them. One strategy to help parents monitor computer use is to keep the computer in a communal space such as in the living room or dining room. Parents also need to sit down with their children and discuss how and when children may use the computer. They need to start this at a young age. One of the most important things to discuss with children is that talking to strangers will not be tolerated. Families should also make children aware of what is appropriate content to post online. No one should ever post identifying information such as address or phone number online. Children should be reminded to never name the school they attend as that could help pedophiles track them down. Finally, make your child’s online accounts including Myspace and Facebook have privacy and age settings set correctly.
In addition, there are resources available to help you monitor your child’s computer use even when you are not home. Parental control software allows you to monitor your computer at home from work. Most parental control software monitoring social networking sites costs $50-$100. Another option is to know your child’s password and monitor their page. You can also sign up for your own account and become their online friend so you can view their page.
To keep children – including teenagers – safe, parents need to become more familiar with how their children are using the Internet. Do not allow your children to be more aware about the computer than you are.