There can be no doubt about it—the World Wide Web can be an outlet for some of the most dangerous activity. Lots of us are worried that our children will accidentally run into some hardcore pornography site or one that otherwise contains material that is not suitable for children to view—but that is only part of the picture. Each year, millions of children receive emails from strangers without their parents' knowing about it. Too many of these online “meetings” end badly, with the child being kidnapped and sexually abused or even killed. Even in those cases where they are rescued, the emotional scar of their experience remains with them for the rest of their lives. One need only watch the Touched by an Angel episode “Pandora’s Box” to see how bad it can be. Often, too, children accessing an unfamiliar website end up inadvertently downloaded programs that are harmful to the computer on which their parents store valuable files such as tax information.
Software manufacturers, well aware of the severity of the problem, have designed programs designed to enable parents to control what their children view in various ways, whether by blocking off undesirable websites or by alerting them if a child is trying to access such a site. But these kinds of programs, though great to have, are not enough. After all, they will some day become independent of you and be able to make their own Internet decisions. Even more important in the long run, therefore, is teaching children to develop safe browsing habits. This article will teach you how to do that.
Establish clear rules
There is nothing like a set of rules—and rules that are clearly stated—to keep children in line, along with a set of specific consequences for breaking them. In the case of surfing, avoid telling your children about the parental control software that helped you catch them “with their hands in the cookie jar.” As long as they remain in the dark about its existence, you will have the upper hand with regard to surfing. Rules that you can set up should include the following:
Never download any software from an untrusted site. Teach children to be suspicious if they receive the message that ActiveX controls are needed to proceed.
If they receive threatening emails, they must tell you about it.
Remember that people one may have met online are still strangers and children must, therefore, be wary of meeting them in person. They may not be anything like what they say they are.
Also use your desktop to set up shortcuts that lead to child-friendly sites such as sesamestreet.org or nick.com. That way they become accustomed to such sites at an early age.
As your children are maturing, you will want to nurture in them the values that will steer them away from bad websites, whether or not you are watching them. This involves teaching them to love good behavior and hate bad behavior for their own sake. Encourage them to develop healthy relationships with you and with their teachers and schoolmates.
Set a good example
Making rules for children is something that must be continually reinforced by setting a good example. Children learn correct behavior first and foremost by observing that of their own parents. Therefore, you should not visit any sites that you would not want your children to visit. You would not want them to catch you looking at disgusting pictures of women’s private areas, would you?
Constructive use of the Internet
The final element in instilling positive surfing habits in the young lies in remembering that the Internet can also be used for constructive purposes. Children can use email or social networking sites such as Facebook to chat with friends and relatives. They can also surf the web to find information that they may need to do their homework assignments (though there are also many “cheating” sites like homeworksucks.com, so be sure and look into that too). You should therefore encourage them to use online resources in this way—but not to let surfing take the place of other activities.
Kathleen Martins is a blogger for the best Web browser: Torchbrowser.com. Try Torchbrowser and experience the difference today!
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