Keeping Our Kids Safe Online

Every two weeks, one of our Brentwood Community Police volunteers will be providing a submission to the  Volunteer Blog.    Each story will be written to enhance our community’s knowledge on Crime Prevention  Tips or safety related ideas.       The first submission is from Coreen,  who has provided  some well  researched  guidelines to  help parents and guardians navigate the world wide web with their children.    Thank-you Coreen.  

The web is a wonderful resource for children, however can also pose risks and hazards.  The following tips and strategies will educate parents, teachers and anyone else who would like to better understand the good, the bad and the ugly about the web, and will provide the tools and resources needed to improve your child’s safety on the Internet.

Risks for Children on the Internet

  • Exposure to sexually explicit material.
  • Public nature and permanence of the Internet.
  • Building relationships online.
  • Threats, Bullying and Coercion.
  • Search Engines.

What Should You Talk to Your CHILD About?

  • Let your child know that you will monitor his/her online activities, as the Internet is a public place.  To facilitate this, keep the computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms.
  • Create Internet guidelines that are discussed regularly as a family.  Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material.
  • Show your child how to use safe search engines, especially younger children (e.g. Yahooligans).
  • Reinforce the idea that not everyone is who they say they are online.  People can pretend to be older or younger than they actually are.
  • Explain to your child that it’s illegal to threaten someone, and that he/she should tell a safe adult if threatened online.
  • Explain to your child that he/she may come across sexually inappropriate material while online.  Ensure they understand that they can talk to you about anything on the Internet without fear of losing privileges (particularly if he/she comes across something or someone that makes them feel uncomfortable, or experiences an uncomfortable online exchange).
  • Just as you would explain appropriate behaviour in the offline world, the same should be done for online activities.  Speak to your child about boundaries and make sure your child knows to stop any conversation that is uncomfortable and to tell a safe adult.

What Should You Talk to Your TEEN About?

  • Discuss respect and dignity and how your teen portrays him/herself online.
  • Explain the importance of being careful with pictures your teen posts or sends online, reinforcing that once a picture is sent, control over what happens to it is lost.
  • Talk to your teen about the risks involved with sharing personal information with people online and how it can be misused to embarrass or manipulate them.
  • Warn your teen about individuals they chat with online who start talking about sex, etc. or ask ‘weird’ questions or request inappropriate pictures.  Tell them to trust their instincts and block anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable.
  • Tell your teen not to share his/her password with ANYONE, and that their password should be a combination of numbers and letters (both upper and lower-case).  Explain that popup ads and malicious sites appear legitimate, but that email and messenger providers will never ask for your teen’s username and password.

As a Parent, What Can You Do?

  • Balance, and if necessary, limit the amount of time your child spends online.
  • Use filtering software (for more information, visit www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca).
  • Supervise your child’s online activities.  In the case of teens, despite appearing to be able to handle most situations, your teen requires and unconsciously seeks adult guidance.
  • Restrict your child’s use of adult search engines.
  • Explore the games your child plays to determine if they are age appropriate.  Is the game moderated?  Is there a chat component?  Are avatars used?  Does it contain sexual or violent material?
  • Know your child’s login information and email addresses.  What username or character names has your child given him/herself?  It should not provide identifying characteristics about him/her or hobbies (e.g. shygirl, bookworm, etc.).
  • Assist with the creation of online profiles.  When signing up for games, provide a family or parental email account rather than your child’s email address.
  • Don’t allow your child to communicate in unregulated chatrooms.
  • Know who your teen is communicating with online.
  • Monitor webcam use and any posting or exchanging pictures online.

The following websites offer important information on the far reaching and largely unrestricted world of the web.  These sites will educate you as a parent, provide insight into what your children are facing as they explore the online world, and explain where risk may exist in your child’s online experience.  You will then have a greater insight into what protections can be strengthened to increase your child’s personal safety.

www.getcybersafe.gc.ca  This Government of Canada website highlights the need for individuals, families, and the public and private sectors to be aware of the risks and to use the tools and resources available to help them stay safe online.

www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca  This unique one-stop shop for Internet safety information will provide parents, teachers and anyone else interested in keeping kids safe online with the tools and resources they need to do so.

www.bewebaware.ca    This website helps you as parents increase your awareness of how your kids are using the Internet and the issues they may encounter along the way.

www.kidsintheknow.ca  This is an interactive safety education program for children from Kindergarten to High School.  Lessons on child personal safety and sexual exploitation are divided equally throughout the program.  Zoe and Molly Online is a comic book that has been created to teach children about their personal safety while playing online games.

www.cybertip.ca  Canada’s national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children.  Owned and operated by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, Cybertip.ca’s mandate is to protect children from online sexual exploitation by receiving and analyzing tips from the public; and contributing to public education and prevention through online safety strategies and national awareness campaigns.

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