While there are federal means to keep your child safe online, such as the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, which aims to make sure that no one on the Internet collects your little one's personal information, keeping kids safe online takes more than a law. Parents are a prime force in maintaining safe childhood practices when it comes to technology use.
The child development experts at the Kids Health website recommend that parents use online tools to protect their children's safety while using the Internet. While these tools don't guarantee a completely safe online environment, they can restrict what sites your child visits and also monitor her surfing habits. This can help keep your child from accidentally stumbling upon a website that features adult content. Additionally, monitoring programs and tools can allow you to keep track of where your child is going while online and with whom she is making connections.
Nothing can take the place of you. Just like you wouldn't allow your young child to go swimming, walk across town or go to the mall by himself, you shouldn't allow him to interact with technology completely alone. According to the professionals at the Kids Health website, parents should keep the computer in a common room and spend time online with their children. Going online with your child not only helps you to see what he is doing on the Internet, it also allows you the chance to educate him on safe practices.
As your child grows and develops, so do her social skills. Kids near or in the teen years may enjoy using social networking media to connect with friends from school or other peers. Before you let your child loose online, make sure that she knows the rules of social safety while online and during any technology use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents learn about social media technologies to better understand the risks to their children, ask children daily about their computer use and educate children on the dangers of sharing too much information either online or via text and email.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' stopbullying.com website defines cyberbullying as using electronic technology to intimidate or cause harm to another person. This may include making mean-spirited posts on a social media site, sending rumor-filled text messages or writing threatening emails. Parents should educate children on what cyberbullying is and how to respond to it. This should entail communicating with your child and letting him know that he should come to you, or another trusted adult such as a teacher, if he feels threatened or bullied via technology. Additionally, monitoring your child's technology use can help you to become more aware of potential cyberbully threats even if your child doesn't always come out and tell you.