The simple answer to the question, "How do I keep my kids safe online?" is, "Get online." The only way to monitor your child's activities in cyberspace is to be there yourself, learning the venues they want to frequent, and educating yourself about the parental controls and safety protocols at your disposal.
1. Start early discussing Internet safety.
There are simply too many ways to access the Internet today for any parent to make the assumption they will be in charge of when their children begin to explore the online world. You may forbid them to get on the net at home, but they may already be there while at a friend's house. Start having “the Internet talk” between ages 6-8.
2. Make them aware there are dangers.
In the same way you'd tell your child not to get in a car with someone or follow someone in "the real world," make them understand that people are not always who they say they are online. That "10-year-old girl" may well be a 45-year-old pedophile.
3. Never meet an online person “in real life.”
It is imperative that your child be clear on this point above all others. Never agree to meet an online person “in real life.”. And, if they receive such a request, it's important for them to tell you or another trusted adult because in the telling, they may be protecting not only themselves, but others.
4. Never give out personal information.
Explain to your child the dangers of giving out their full name, address, school address, and telephone number. Every one of those bits of information allow a predator to find the child in the physical world. You don't want to terrorize your child, but caution and fear are not the same thing.
5. Don't post photos and videos without parental permission.
While photo and video sharing is highly popular, make it a hard-and-fast rule that your children are not to post still or moving images without your permission. Predators can draw a great deal of information from visuals, for instance, the address painted on the curb in the video of your child learning to ride her bike. The pedophiles are smart; don't underestimate their intelligence, or their ability to glean information.
6. Emphasize the need to trust their own emotions.
Generally our senses are acute enough to pick up when something is wrong with a situation and to alert us. Emphasize to your child that if they feel uncomfortable or afraid in any situation -- on or offline -- there probably really is something wrong. NOT that they are doing something wrong, but that something is alerting their native intuition to potential danger.
About the author:
Kirk Bernard is a personal injury lawyer who cares about the children in the online community and realizes the potential dangers of children being online. It is his goal as a personal injury lawyer to help parents and children protect their identity and safety in a digital world.