Surefire Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

By GalTime Nerd Chick Andrea Eldridge

Keep your kids safe online this school year. Keep your kids safe online this school year. These days, if your kids are old enough to walk and talk, they're old enough to use the Internet - and they're probably already better at it than you are. After all, they've spent their entire lives around it.

Modern kids grow up with electronics woven into most aspects of their life. Entertainment, education, social relationships - everything is pretty much run by our computing devices.

It used to be easy to meet the people your children were associating with when they lived across the street or went to their school, but what do you do when they live in another state, or halfway across the world?

What about when your child doesn't even know their real name or much about who they really are? There are a few ways to make sure your kids don't get into trouble via online interactions, and most of them are common sense. However, the rules that we learned as children have changed - but they're still based on a few good fundamentals. You might also do well to take these into consideration in your own online activities.

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Hold Hands When Crossing the Street: You wouldn't let your child learn to navigate a city on their own without teaching them the ropes beforehand. As your kids are younger and beginning to explore the Internet, remember that they are heading into a world that neither of you may know much about. Don't be ignorant of the world that your kids live in. Take the time to find out for yourself how the internet works and where dangers can come from. Learn the rules for yourself like "don't click on that, it's an ad," and "Don't give away personal information to places that don't need it." Then make sure your kids understand those rules and why. And don't be afraid to learn with them - just remember that you're there to keep them safe.

Listen to the Babysitter: Programs like NetNanny will allow you to set parental filters for your children's Internet access, and can give you detailed reports of how and when your child is accessing the internet. To help your kids to understand the filters better, you can explain it like an online babysitter - it enforces the rules while you're not around.

But just like with a real babysitter, your kids will eventually outgrow it. And if they're interested in computers, let's be real here - they're going to find a way around it. If you start to see signs of this, you should uninstall the program and just talk with your kids. Absolutely none of these methods will do anything if your kids don't learn for themselves. As your kids grow older and start to become more independent, so will their internet activities. And you shouldn't try and control them - you should help your kids become responsible citizens in every area of their lives.

Related: What Babysitters & Parents Really Think!

Of course, there are the always tried-and-true:

Don't Talk to Strangers: Sites like Facebook are intended for social networking, which means most of the people that your child will talk to will be real-life friends, and friends of friends. Encourage your kids to be careful about who they friend - it's not a contest to see who can friend the most people they don't know. It might be good to suggest a policy of not adding someone on Facebook that they haven't talked to in real life. After all, it only makes sense. Also tell them to watch out for people who try and friend them, but have not mutual friends. There are just as many bad people online as in real life, so make sure your child knows how to spot the difference in both places.

If You Can't Say Anything Nice…: Make sure your kids know that the things they say online are just as real as the things they say in person, and they last longer. Sometimes kids will post things online that they wouldn't say in real life, simply because they don't have to deal with the immediate consequences. Make sure your children understand that the comments they post online are still being read by real people. If they say mean things, other people will see them and pick up on them, and it will lead to greater hostility. Suggest that they find ways to express constructive criticism and take the time to thing about what they're posting and why before they do so.

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