Computer and Internet technology provides parents with numerous options to block or restrict Internet access, from not letting them get online at all to restricting access to certain web sites to literally tracking every single keystroke.
However, as parents have discovered through the ages, the more you try to restrict and control a child, particularly an older one, the more likely they are to sneak around behind your back to get to the “forbidden fruit”.
As a result, establishing rules for the Internet should incorporate common sense, sound reasoning, and communication.
The first step is for you, as parents, to determine what you are trying to control with your rules. For example, if you are trying to protect your kids from online predators, then educating your children as to the dangers and giving them the skills to know how to recognize potential problems has been proven to be far more effective than simply forbidding them to go online.
Talking to your kids about online safety may mean that you, too, have to become educated. However, even if you are already sure of your own online safety skills (and are you really sure you can recognize an email hoax or phishing attempt), one of the smartest things you can do is to sit down with your child and go over some of the online safety websites available online, such as Be Web Aware, which offers age-specific safety tips.
Don’t take a negative approach towards your child, either. Make it clear that it’s not them you don’t trust, but the bad people online who don’t love and care about them like you do. Allowing them to participate in the rule making will help them understand why the rules are being made and make them feel trusted.
Explain to your child the importance of not revealing personal information online to anyone they meet online. Not just their name and address, but their phone number, their email address, their school, their friends’ names, even the state they live in. This also means not filling out surveys or online forms to get “free stuff.” No personal information. None. Not without you there and approving.
Keep Internet-connected computers out of bedrooms. This would still allow teens to do their assignments on their own computer, but would allow Internet access only in a public area. (If, every time you come near, your child clicks away from what they’re doing, it’s time to sit down and talk with them about whatever it was they were just doing.)
Some parents resort to filtering programs and keystroke loggers. But having a healthy relationship with your child, spending time with them while they’re online, talking about uncomfortable things like porn sites, educating them about Internet safety, and other parent-child involvement will go much further in keeping your child safe online.