Published Date 9th July 2007
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From "Banking at your Fingertips"
Cyberspace is packed with great resources for kids. Supervision, of course, is also important, but this can be hard if kids know more about computers than their parents. Here are a few tips to guarantee a pleasant surfing session for all.
Steer kids to the good stuff
Start kids off right by steering them to the best on-line resources. A great site is Yahooligans.com, a kid-friendly area of the popular Yahoo! Parents can also find safety pointers at the informative Safekids.com site. Books can help, too, including Internet Kids and Family Yellow Pages by Jean Armour Polly.
Keep the computer public
It's a simple idea, but it works. Put the computer in the living room or the kitchen, instead of a bedroom, and it will be easier to monitor kids' Web activities.
Set the rules before setting up
Establish rules to prevent bad habits. Set up time limits for a child's on-line activities, and make sure kids know that homework comes first (even if they are using the Web for studies).
The trouble with games
Parents often fear that children will go straight to unsuitable websites, but most kids are more distracted by on-line games than off-colour sites. Children who love PC games like Quake typically find the Web-based version even more addictive. Be prepared for this to be a sticking point if your children are gaming fans.
Blocking and talking
Blocking software like Cybersitter.com and Netnanny.com lets parents define and block a list of undesirable websites. But experts say parents shouldn't rely exclusively on software, especially since savvy kids can disable the programs. Talk to your children, make sure they understand your surfing rules, and try to build trust. Use blocking software or check log files (a computer's internal record of visited websites) as a supplement to these chats.
Chat with caution
Programmes like Internet Relay Chat let people exchange instant text messages, chat is more like a live conversation than the delayed medium of e-mail. Don't let young children chat alone, and try to steer older children to kid-safe rooms like those at Yahooligans!
Keep information private
Children should never give out their full name and postal address on a website. Teach children to be suspicious if a site demands this information. Most reputable kids' sites have a dedicated area that parents should read.
Learn the basics
Understanding the Net yourself is the best way to safeguard your kids. Introductory Net courses, from companies like Futurekids, are as brief as three to six hours, and are offered on nights and weekends.
Above all, remember that the lessons you've already taught your kids will stand to them on-line. "The Internet is just part of the world," said Eamon O'Neill of FutureKids, a company that teaches computer basics to children and their parents. "The values you give kids and the relationship you have with them should be the first line of defence."
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