A Complete Guide
Table of Contents
Keeping Tabs on Your Child's Computer Usage .................................................................
Establishing Limits ............................................................................................................
Computer Location Tips .....................................................................................................
Setting Up Website Filters and Antivirus ...........................................................................
Social Media & Chat Room Safety .....................................................................................
Cyber Bullying ....................................................................................................................
Opening Email Safely .........................................................................................................
Internet Safety Laws ..........................................................................................................
As if children weren't exposed to enough dangers in the real world, now they have to
worry about the predators that lurk in the dark corners of the Internet and the other threats they're vulnerable to online. To increase Internet safety and reduce the risk of comprising their kids' security, parents must now become proactive in watching what their children do when they're on the computer, including setting boundaries, and addressing any issues immediately.
With the rapid rise of social media, it's easier than ever for a child to fall victim to an online threat. Although sitting down with your kids and educating them about the risks and threats they face is a step in the right direction, the onus is on you to keep a watchful and protective eye on them. This Internet safety guide for kids will help you do just that, informing you of what to keep in mind and how to stay safe.
Keeping Tabs on Your Child’s Computer Usage
First and foremost, you'll want to monitor how much time your children are spending
on the computer and what they're doing on it. The intent here isn't to stalk your children or invade their privacy; it's to ensure they're using the technology responsibly. Consider implementing one of the following two methods of keeping tabs on your children while they innocently crawl through the Interwebs.
Basic Free Method
Although there's no possible way to cover all the bases, parents have the necessary tools needed to make sure their kids aren't running into online hazards like pornography, predators, scams, bullies, malware, and more. One of these tools is Windows Live Family Safety. With this program, parents can carefully watch what their kids are doing on the computer and take immediate action when a problem occurs.
Here's how to set up
Windows Live Family Safety
(if you have a Windows computer, of course)
Get a Windows Live ID.
Create a unique user account for your kids on every
computer they might use by opening the control panel, clicking add or remove user accounts, and creating a new account. Enter the account name, check the standard use button, and click create account.
After that, set up your parental controls by clicking the link below the user list. Then click your child's account and set up time limits, program limits, and game ratings.
Although what you've done up until now offers a reasonable level of protection for a small investment of time, you need to make sure Windows Live Family Safety is installed on every computer your kids will use if you want to monitor their activity. To check if it is, click on the Windows button at the bottom left part of the screen, select all programs, and open the Windows Live folder. If you see it, run it. If not, download it on the Windows website.
Once you have Windows Live Family Safety running, use your Windows Live ID to sign in.
After clicking next, you'll need to link the Windows account with a Windows Live Family Safety member. Click save and wait for the program to complete the operation.
When you want to check your kids' online activity, all you have to do is log in to the Windows Live Family Safety page with your Windows Live ID. Click view activity report.
You'll then see a list of users that includes your kids. Click the monitor account box.
The report covers online and offline activity in the last week. You can also block sites here.
Let your kids know you're tracking them. This builds trust and teaches them about threats.
Feature-Rich Paid Method
If you want to take your monitoring efforts a step further, there's plenty of software to choose from. Tracking keystrokes, taking screenshots, and monitoring social media are just a few of the features that this type of software offers parents. When picking the perfect monitoring software, there are some things you should take into account. Carefully consider the following four points before buying software.
Keystroke logging is one of the more sought-after features when people buy monitoring software. This is because it not only lets parents see what their kids typed, but also provides them with access to their usernames and passwords. A comprehensive software will allow you to track all activity on the computer, including social media and document tracking.
Unfortunately, not all monitoring software allows parents to block or filter content they don't want their kids to see. Although blocking websites is a common feature in most software, some go even further by blocking based on categories or keywords. The best software will let you control which users can access what and when in a matter of a few clicks.
Depending on your preference, you can either have the
information, logs, and screenshots that the monitoring
software gathered sent to your email or you can access it via the Internet. When picking a monitoring software, make sure it offers a reporting platform that you're comfortable with and can comprehend.
Help & Support
Software manufacturers should offer parents immediate help and support. Company websites should have detailed resources and offer customer service by website form, email, and live chat. Also, don't forget to look for manufacturers that offer free demos to customers. This way you can test the software out before investing your money and time in it.
About three in 10 parents allow their kids to use the Internet without restrictions or
supervision. This leads to kids overusing their computers, spending large amounts of time playing games, downloading files, and perusing social media. The more time they spend in front of a computer screen and keyboard, the more susceptible they are to online threats. This is why it's important you use your parental power, establishing limits and guidelines that your kids must follow if they want to surf the Internet.
Although you can write a set of guidelines on a piece of paper and post them near the computer to remind your children, there are other options to limit their access. Here are two of them.
Limiting Access Using the Built-In Wireless Router Settings
To establish and manage restrictions on your wireless router, go to its setup page by typing 192.168.1.1 into the address bar on your Internet browser. Type in your username and password and you'll have access to your router's setup menus. Find the Router Access Restrictions or Parental Controls menu, where you're able to set controls like the times when your kids are able to access online content.
Limiting Access Using the Computer's Parental Controls
As discussed in the previous chapter, Windows Live Family Safety provides parents with the tools they need to monitor their children's online activity. Windows 7 also offers a comprehensive set of tools that lets parents watch and restrict their kids. To get to these controls, click on 'set up parental controls for any user' in the control panel. Follow the prompts to categorically set restrictions and privileges.
Computer Location Tips
Believe it or not, there are simpler ways of ensuring your kids are safe online than
buying the most expensive monitoring software money can buy. One of these ways involves strategically placing your household computer in a spot where you can actively watch your children use the Internet. Allowing your kids to lock themselves alone in a room with a computer is asking for trouble. Here are some tips on where to place your home's computer so that your kids aren't tempted to make the wrong move.
Put the computer in a space that's big enough to house the computer and all extra supplies.
Put the computer in a space that has plenty of lighting.
Put the computer in a space that's open and that you frequent often (such as the kitchen or living room).
Setting Up Website Filters and Antivirus
Once you have the household computer situated in a spot where you feel comfortable
overseeing your kids' online activities, you should set up website filters and antivirus to protect them and your computer. Harmless Internet browsing can easily turn into your kids seeing something inappropriate or downloading a virus onto your computer. Remember that prevention is the best form of protection.
Here are some important features your website filter should have:
Blocks websites in categories including drugs, gambling, phishing, pornography, and malware.
Forces a 'SafeSearch' on all the main search engines.
Sets time restrictions to block online access during designated times.
Configures custom lists to 'always allow' or 'always block'.
Provides an anti-tampering feature that children can't break.
Allows you to override a webpage block with a password.
Sends you detailed reports that help you monitor and control online activity.
What to Look For
Here’s a list of features and functionality to look for when purchasing an antivirus utility:
The antivirus software you decide to arm yourself with should detect 100 percent of the threats your computer encounters when online if you want proper protection. There are various testing sites that'll help you determine which software is best. Top Ten Reviews performs the most extensive tests, providing displayed results for several categories of threats. After running a test, you'll know just how strong your software is at protecting and repairing damage.
You'll want to purchase an antivirus software that specifically caters to what you and your kids do on the computer. If you use instant messenger, email, or file-sharing applications, you'll want a product that can perform functions such as protecting you from phishing and flagging threats that instant messages and emails contain. With children in mind, you'll want to opt to get the most comprehensive antivirus so you cover as many bases as you possibly can.
Help & Support
As mentioned previously, the level of help and customer support you receive is as important as anything else a product can offer, especially when you're dealing with online threats that can damage more than just your computer. With that in mind, make sure that your antivirus software has frequent updates and 24/7 support through phone, email, and live chat.
Social Media & Chat Room Safety
With more than 1.15 billion users, there's no denying that children are using Facebook
to communicate and access information at alarming rates. A high level of engagement on social media means a higher risk of falling victim to an online predator or a cyberbully. In this new world of social media, parents must proactively teach their kids about the hidden dangers of using it and what the warning signs are.
Here are eight tips to help you monitor your children's social media activity:
No (Facebook) Page for the Underage
According to Facebook's policy, kids younger than 13 years old aren't permitted to use the social network. While there's no way for Facebook to enforce it, parents can do so by not allowing their kids to sign up until they're 13.
Configure the Privacy Settings
Facebook offers plenty of privacy settings, so be sure to set them to the strictest levels. This detailed article will help you protect your privacy.
Establish Ground Rules
If your children are old enough to use a computer on their own, then they're old enough to understand and follow a few ground rules. Openly discuss the rules with your kids and talk with them to reach a mutual agreement. If they break them, enforce the consequences.
Know Who Your Children’s Friends Are
You don't have to spy on your children and invade their privacy to get to know them. Take time to find out which websites your children frequent and who their friends are at school. Their real-world friends and Facebook friends should match.
Tell Your Kids to Avoid Gimmicks
Whether it's questionnaires, contests, or free giveaways, tell your kids to stay away from these scams and schemes – even if they think they can win.
Review the Pictures Your Children Post
Ideally, your kids shouldn't post any pictures of themselves online. Realistically, though, you should at least know which ones they're putting online and refrain from posting any that have identifiable information in the background.
Lead by Example
If you're spending every free moment checking your Facebook account, you're setting a poor example of how your children should use social media. Remember to ask yourself if you're setting a good example and demonstrating appropriate technology etiquette.
Teach About How to Maintain a Positive Online Reputation
Most children don't understand the permanence of the online world and the importance of maintaining a positive image. What they post today could affect them in the future when they're applying for college or a job.
Although chat rooms aren't as popular as they once were, your kids should still keep these tips in mind:
Chat rooms are live. You can't take back or delete what you write.
Don't write anything you wouldn't want the public to know about you (full name, address, etc.)
Don't meet people from a chat room (if you insist, do it in a public setting)
Don't disclose your actual location.
If someone writes something that bothers you, block them right away and don't respond.
If the topic leads to something sexual, sign out before it leads to harassment.
Cyberbullying is bullying that occurs on an electronic device through communication
tools like social media sites, chat rooms, text messages, and websites. Common examples of cyberbullying include mean emails or text messages, rumors spread through social media sites, and embarrassing pictures and videos being posted online. Children who are cyberbullied are usually bullied in person, too. This makes it even harder for kids to get away from this sort of behavior.
Kids who fall victim to cyberbullying are more likely to:
Abuse alcohol and drugs.
Not attend school.
Receive poor grades.
Have lower self-esteem.
Have more health problems.
With that said, it's important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. That way they can confide in you if they're having a problem. If they tell you that they're getting cyberbullied, tell them to keep all evidence of the cyberbullying – record the times, dates, and descriptions of when the cyberbullying happens. Additionally, make sure they save and print any screenshots, text messages, and emails that prove that cyberbullying took place.
Since cyberbullying often violates the terms and conditions or rights and responsibilities sections that social media sites and Internet service providers establish, it's in your best interest to contact them first if you have an issue. If the cyberbullying involves threats of violence, child pornography (or sexually explicit content), or stalking and hate crimes, contact local law enforcement right away. These are criminal acts and they can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Many of the Internet ads that pop-up on the computer screen are colorful and vibrant,
enticing kids to click on them without a worry as to what might happen next. Although most of these clicks will inevitably result in nothing more than a waste of time, some contain harmful malware that can wipe out everything on your computer.
Here's what to look for to find out if a file is safe to download:
Assess the File You’re Downloading
Assess the file you're downloading. Some files have a greater probability of being more harmful than others. For example, pornography is infamous for containing viruses in the files.
Browse Through the Site
If you're downloading a file from a website that's very basic, there's a high chance that it'll have a hidden virus in it. Trust websites that have been built up.
Consider the Source of the Download
It should sound like common sense, but always consider the source of the download. The bigger the brand or website, the more credible it is.
Check to See if Other People Have Downloaded the File
If there's a way for you to check to see if other people have downloaded the file and commented about it, take full advantage of it.
Look at the File Size
If the file seems too small or too large for the content that it claims to be, it’s probably junk.
Find Out if the File is Signed
Opening Email Safely
If your kids have email accounts, it's important you teach them to never open
attachments or strange emails until they've consulted you first. They should also only email people they know and never give their email address to strangers.
Here's what to look for to find out if a file is safe to download:
Check the Sender
Scammers will oftentimes use legitimate looking links or attachments in their email so they can steal your information. The best course of action is to only open emails from people you know, making sure that what they've sent isn't a virus (run it through antivirus).
Check the File Type
If the file has a .jpeg, .jpg, .psd, .bmp, .gif, .txt, .pdf, or .doc extension, then you're generally safe. If the file has an .exe, .vbs, or .com extension, watch out.
Scan All Files With Antivirus
No matter what file and from whom, use an antivirus to scan it.
Double-Check by Phone or Website
When in doubt over an email or download, contact the person or company that sent it to confirm that it's not a scam.
Internet Safety Laws
There are two laws, called COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) and CIPA
(Children's Internet Protection Act), that benefit children by addressing concerns stemming from their access to harmful and obscene content via the Internet. COPPA regulates how a website operator can use the Internet to collect, store, and reveal personal information about children. In short, the law protects the privacy and safety of children and limits how websites market to them. According to COPPA, website operators must get parental consent to collect, use, or reveal personal information about a child younger than 13.
CIPA, on the other hand, requires that schools and libraries filter or block Internet access to pictures that are either obscene, pornographic, or harmful to minors. For a more comprehensive understanding of this Act, refer to the Federal Communications Commission website.