In today's technology filled world, parents need to help kids navigate the internet safely and use it appropriately. Sousa parents and students in grades three through five recently attended an Internet Safety 101 program presented by Daniel Dowd, program director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Long Island.
The most important message presented was that parents must carefully monitor every child's communication with the outside world including IM messages, web site travel and cell phone use.
Stay on top of computer usage by putting the computer in a family area; agreeing on rules for computer use; formalizing a usage "contract" with your child; and installing filtering software. Dowd recommends AOL Guardian, Spyrecon, Eblaster 5.0, and K9webprotection.com and MySpace4Parents.com and My Space Watch.com.
Be aware that camera phones and web cams all present safety issues. Children often don't understand the serious consequences of incorrect usage. Taking a picture of a friend changing in a locker room, or passing along an inappropriate image they receive, has gotten children charged with transmitting pornography. Keep in mind that a Webcam is a conduit into your home. Mr. Dowd recommends keeping webcams unplugged or covered if kids are using the computer without supervision. He advised parents to remember that many cell phones now have Global Positioning Systems, so giving out a phone number is equivalent to giving out a street address. If your child is going to have a cell phone, buy one such as Cingular's KidGo that is designed to limit outsider calls. Talk with your children about the dangers of revealing personal information online or through handheld devices.
Finally, remind your kids, and yourself, that the rules for the online world are much the same as the offline world. Ridiculing or harassing a peer through email and instant messages is cyber bullying and it is just as wrong, and potentially illegal, as harassing someone in person. Revealing personal information online can be just as dangerous as giving out information over the phone or to a stranger at the front door. Take the time to teach your kids Internet and technology safety and etiquette.