Monday, August 21, 2006

Please, protect our kids! Internet safety for your children: Part I

This time last year, if we had one or two parents come in to our computer repair shop concerned about something they had found on their child’s computer, that was a lot. This year, we are seeing two or three a week and that is just the cases we know about. Now we are used to not having our advice listened to, advice on such things as back-up your data or don’t use your Outlook for storage, but as parents we are responsible for the safety of our children. Keeping them safe from online predators requires setting up limits.
If you are a parent, you need to learn about this. If that means taking a course or buying a book, then do it. It is very hard to protect your kids if you don’t know what they are doing.
The next articles discuss how a predator works and how easy you can make it for them. Then, after we thoroughly scare you we will show you how to set up protection. But, this week we will start with the 10 essential tips to safeguard your children.

1- Don’t forbid Internet use. In all probability they will defy your ban on the sly.
2- Filtering software won’t block all the dangers kids face online, but it is a good start. Visit web sites with your child wherever possible.
3- Understand the technologies. Take a class, read books, try the sites yourself. The more you know the better you can talk to your children.
4- Real important, place the computer in a common room. Kids won’t expect privacy there.
5- Talk to the parents of your child’s friends. Most kids use computers at a friend’s home.
6- Teach your kids the “embarrassment rule”. Never post anything they wouldn't want everyone to read.
7- Tell them to be careful about what they post regarding other people. Predator friendly info is often left by friends posting comments.
8- Let your child know that it’s important to tell you if he or she is ever approached online or receives inappropriate content.
9- Look for red flags that your child is in danger, such as minimizing a browser when you enter the room or type phrases like POS (Parent over shoulder) into chat windows.
10- If you think there may be a problem, report it to the authorities, and also to your Internet service provider.

Keeping your child safe online requires constant vigilance. The high number of missing and exploited children attests to the fact that internet predators can be a real threat. In the next article we will discuss how a predator can find out information about your child, including where your child lives.

Chris Kaminski has been working in computer repair and web development for the last 20 years. Kaminski is CEO and head technician for Computer Guys Live Inc., an online computer repair company based in Asheville, NC. He writes informative weekly articles about internet safety and computer technology. Visit for more tech tips, online computer repair and internet safety information.

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