Earlier this week a group of 17 Internet companies, including popular communities and social networks such as Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Youtube, MySpace and Habbo Hotel among others, signed a five-point plan to protect children online. The plan includes a series of measures aimed at keeping the youngest members of these communities safe from online abuse and cyber-bullying, which will be implemented in April.
Having such important companies involved in a campaign to protect children on the Web is certainly positive, but this is not only their responsibility. Parents should be the first ones to control how and when their kids use the Internet to avoid any potential threats. Just like they’re taught basic manners for everyday life, children need to learn how to use the Internet properly, so that they can play, learn and have fun, away from online abusers.
Fortunately, there are a bunch of tools that can help worried parents control what their kids do when they’re in front on the PC. You can start by installing a Firefox add-on that creates a children-safe environment on your browser, like Glubble and KidZui. If you prefer your kids to use their own browser, you can then download KidSurf or KidRocket, two children web browsers that make Internet browsing completely safe. Another option is using content filters such as CyberSitter and Net Nanny, and prevent the child from accessing unsafe material. Finally, there are also tools to control the time your kids spend online or use the computer at all, like Child Protector Pro and Kids PC Time Administrator.
While these tools can by very helpful when protecting your kid on the Web, the most important point is trying to share those Internet browsing sessions with them, and teach them some basic rules:
- Don’t trust everything you’re told on the Web
- Never give away your personal data: name, address, phone number, passwords
- Don’t meet in real life with someone you’ve only met online; tell your parents first
- If someone sends you unpleasant material, tell your parents right away
- Don’t spend too much time on the Web, and don’t let it take up time from other activities like homework, playing or doing sport
- Mark your profile on web communities social and networks as private