Do you know what your children are doing when they go online? For many children, the Internet has become a primary resource for their entertainment, communication, social and academic interests. While the Internet is a vast source of information for students, it can also be a source of danger, intimidation and misinformation that warrants concern about its usage. It is important that you, as a parent, learn about the Internet so that you can help to keep your children safe online.
The following information is intended to provide a basic framework from which to build your knowledge about Internet safety. It is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you the information you need to open a dialogue about Internet safety with your child.
- The Internet is not owned by anyone, nor is it regulated by any organization. Anyone, anywhere, can post any information on the Internet, whether that information is accurate or not. The anonymity of the Internet makes it a potential tool for victimization or worse—criminal misconduct.
- Remind your children that their Internet postings can take on a life of their own and can travel very quickly. Their Internet postings should be considered permanent, public information. This includes content of e-mails, Instant Messages, chat room messages, text messages, online journals, BLOGS (weblogs), etc.
- Teach your children not to share personal information online anywhere. Just three pieces of information can make anyone identifiable through the Internet: age, sex and location, “A/S/L” in the vernacular of the Internet. Online predators use this information to lure children into dangerous situations.
- Learn about Instant Messaging (IM). Ask your children to tell you their screen name(s), and to show you who is on their Buddy List. Learn the meaning of the acronyms used in IMing (e.g., POS = Parent Over Shoulder). Ask your children to show you their profile.
- Tell them not to take on the personae of someone else (e.g., “I’m a 22 year old girl named Jessie”) when they are online. Warn them to be suspicious of people who lure them into a conversation and ask too many details.
- Make sure you and your children have read and understand the Bullis School Acceptable Use Policy located in the Student Handbook and on the school website. Consider creating a family acceptable use policy and let them know there will be consequences if they abuse any rule.
- Be mindful that the computer is no longer the only place your child can access the Internet. Newer cell phones and PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) devices have Internet and IM capability. If your children have such a device, remind them that the same precautions and rules you set at home for computer utilization should be followed on these devices as well.
- Make sure your children don’t spend too much time on the computer. Many families impose limits for online time, just as they do for TV time. Help them find a balance with other activities. Keep the computer in a shared family space. Most importantly, talk to your children about where they go online and what they do there. You are the best resource your children have for staying safe online.
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