Internet everywhere? Keep your kids safe

A Humana member and his granddaughter browsing the internet on a tablet

If you’re a parent, you probably think twice before letting your child go out alone in your neighborhood. But do you do the same for them online? The Internet can be a dangerous place for children if they’re meeting or talking to people who might take advantage of them.

Tips from a safety expert

Rob Nickel is internationally known as an expert in cyber safety through his website, cyber-safety.com. He’s a retired detective sergeant from the Ontario Provincial Police’s the Child Pornography Section.1

His site offers some useful tips for keeping your children safe when they’re online. Nickel said the most important thing is to talk to your children. Let them know what they should and shouldn’t do when they’re online. Also, let them show you the places they visit on the Internet.

On his website, Nickel lists rules for online safety. Below are some of the highlights. For the full article, visit www.cyber-safety.com/parents.html

  • Keep the computer in an area where it can be monitored. Set up the computer in your family room, kitchen, or living room. It should not be in your child’s bedroom. You should be able to see what your kids are doing online.
  • Be aware of all the ways people connect to the Internet. According to Staysafeonline.org, young people have many options to connect to the Internet beyond a home computer. Phones, tablets, gaming systems and even TVs have become connected. Be aware of all the ways and devices (including what they do at friend’s houses) your children are using and be sure they know how to use them safely and responsibly.2
  • Tell children never to meet an online friend in person unless you are with them. This sounds like common sense, but many children meet people in person that they met online as strangers. Children are often too trusting and they don’t always think there are people in this world who will harm them. It is up to you as a parent to make sure your children are aware of the potential dangers.
  • Watch your children when they’re online and see where they go. Be aware of what sites your children like to visit and know what they’re doing online. This will help you decide how much time your kids should be spending online and why they use the Internet.
  • Make sure that your children know they can come to you with questions. Don’t over-react if things go wrong. Children need to know that they can come to a parent with any problem, and having an open mind is important to keeping an open dialogue. By having a discussion about responsible online habits and making them aware of dangers, kids will feel more comfortable telling you if a problem does arise because they recognize it.
  • Keep kids out of chat rooms unless they are monitored. Nickel said he doesn’t feel chat rooms are a healthy place for children to be online. If a child wants to participate in an online discussion, he or she should be watched at all times. There are certain websites that have monitored chat rooms for children. These websites should be approved by the parents.
  • Teach children what information they can share with others online. Information like telephone numbers, addresses, full name, and school should never be put online. Giving out this information is just giving ammunition to predators. Just a name could be enough to gather information about a child. Let children know that this is one rule that must be followed.
  • Get to know their online friends. You like to know who your children are hanging out with at school. It’s also important to know who they are chatting with online. By having them tell you who their friends are, you can decide whether the friends are appropriate.
  • Post Internet rules near the computer. Once the online rules are established, you should post them near the computer, so your children are more likely to follow them. By posting the rules near the computer, it lets everyone in the family know what’s expected and will help keep everyone safer from online predators.