Kids begin using the computer at an early age. If we are going to protect our kids from internet predators, pornography, and other dangers we must take the time to set family media guidelines. Just as you would explain appropriate behavior in the offline world, the same should be done for online activities.
Establishing a Media Agreement with your children that applies both inside and outside the home is a good place to start. It's important to not just think about guidelines for your family. Write them down, print it out, and have each member of your family sign it.
Post the pledge in a prominent place in your home.
Here are some non-technical guidelines to help you keep your home and family safe.
- Parents supervise use of all internet-enabled devices in the family.
- Let your child know that you will monitor his/her activities.
- Create a list of internet rules with your kids.
- See sample pledges at right.
- Include a list of the kinds of sites that are off limits.
- Review the list or rules or safety pledge regularly.
- Use safe search engines.
- Find some websites that are wholesome to share with your child.
- Take some time to research sites with your child's interests in mind.
- Bookmark them and share them with your child.
- Teach family members to use the internet for a specific purpose only.
- Aimless surfing makes it easier to happen to come across inappropriate sites.
- Teach children the difference between private and public information.
- Private information should not be shared on the internet without parental permission.
- Teach your kids to always come to you before giving out information through e-mail, message boards, registration forms, personal profiles, and online contests.
- Many predators pose as children to gain access to information that may put children at risk.
- Teach children to tell you if they encounter any form of pornography or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable while on the computer or elsewhere.
- Be sure they know they can tell you this without fear of losing computer privileges.
- This will help reduce the fear or shame of accidental exposure.
- It also serves to open discussion about the dangers of pornography.
- Encourage them to tell someone within 10 minutes, or as soon as they can. Statistics show if they do this, they have a much greater chance of not repeating that experience.
- Disallow public and private chat rooms, bulletin boards, forums, or areas that make you feel uncomfortable on the internet. Such places present a substantial risk for children and adults.
- Explain that the internet isn't a place to make new friends.
- Talk about what friendship is and isn't.
- Never interact online with people they don't know, because an online predator or cyberbully can disguise him/herself.
- Have children ask a trusted adult if they are uncertain about a website.
- Limit instant messaging (IM) to a parent-approved buddy list.
- Teach children to create passwords that others can't easily guess.
- Parents have access and passwords to your kids’ e-mail and instant messaging accounts to make sure that they’re not talking to strangers.
- Teach children that the same rules they use when walking down a street apply when they surf the net.
- Teach your child to never have face-to-face meetings with anyone they only know online.
- “Online friends” may not be who they claim to be.
- Teach that people sometimes pretend to be older or younger than they actually are.
- Teach family members never to open email from anyone they don’t know. Even emails apparently from those you know could be a problem.
- Teach your family to be ready to turn away from provocative images that are displayed in advertising, written material, magazines, movies, television, games, or any electronic device connected to the Internet.
- Decreasing exposure to media is a good way to reduce the desensitizing process that occurs in our hyper-sexualized culture.
- Regularly check the internet browser history.
- Check the history file on all family devices to see which sites your child has accessed.
- Many families have a “No Browser History Erase” rule on phones and internet connections. An erased browser history breaks the family rule and has specific consequences.
- Talk to your kids about ethical online behavior.
- They should not be using the Internet to spread gossip, bully, or make threats against others.
- Teach your child the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- If your child is victim of cyberbullying, teach them to:
- Tell a trusted adult.
- Ask you for help and advice.
- Additional info for Cyberbullying.
- Report internet crime and pornography
- It is illegal for an adult or company to knowingly distribute pornography to minors.
- Child pornography is always illegal.
- Report an incident to Cyber Tipline.
Additional Guidelines for Outside the Home
Your child may have access to other computers that don’t have the same filters as you have set up at home. Be sure to include other computers your children may use when setting the rules for them.
- Be aware of the policies of your children’s school and the local public library regarding internet use and accessibility.
- Confirm that your local schools and libraries have filters in place.
- Additional info for Public Libraries.
- Your child’s friends’ computers may not have the same safeguards as your home computer.
- It would be a good idea to talk to the parents of the children your child visits often and ask if they use filters on their computer.
- Assist these families to set up filters and parental controls on their digital devices.
- Share our website with the parents, as well as other resources that can help them understand the harms and dangers of porn, and help them learn to talk to their family about this subject.
What to do if your child is being cyberbullied
Engaging with a bully only fuels the fire. Plus, any response could be circulated immediately.
Sign off and block the bully.
Get offline, and use your instant messenger's blocking features. On cell phones, only answer known numbers.
Change contact information.
If someone is pretending to be your kids, have them change their passwords. If someone creates false profiles, contact the company that hosts the site and report the cyberbullying.
Save all bullying emails.
Send them to your Internet service provider.
Don't assume your kids will talk to you about being bullied.
Often they feel guilty, ashamed, or that it's too painful to bring up. (Or, they may not want to cop to the fact that they've been somewhere forbidden online.) Make sure your kids know you won't judge them, you just want them to be safe.