Children and Online Safety: Issues to Consider


The current generation will never know the struggle of lugging a large encyclopedia off the bookshelf to do a book report or sitting down with a pen and notebook to communicate with a friend. Thanks to the Internet, anything they could want to know or anyone they could want to talk to is only a few keystrokes away.

But with such a gift comes a massive amount of responsibility for parents and caregivers.

"While the internet is a truly remarkable tool, we all know it is also a place where danger lurks," Shane Wallin, EPB field services supervisor, said. "Children may be inclined to share personal information about themselves or others that parents would not want shared. Online predators troll the Internet for all sorts of reasons, and keeping our children protected from them is absolutely crucial."

Here are a couple of issues you should consider.

Parental controls
Many software programs offer parental controls that allow you to set rules for Internet use, such as what times a child is allowed to be online. Software can also detect website content and block what is deemed inappropriate. Many people know and use these strategies to control what their kids see online but forget that more than just laptops and tablets can access the Internet. Many gaming devices also have online access, as do phones. If your controls aren’t set for all Internet-accessing devices, your efforts are in vain. Net Nanny and PureSight are just a couple of programs that can help you do everything from filter online content to block chats. Parents can also set up email alerts to let them know when a child attempts to access blocked content.

"These tools help parents stay involved without always having to be standing over their child’s shoulders," Wallin said. "Some [software programs] will track everything your child does … every site visited, every message typed in, every email sent."

Social media
Even if you’re monitoring all types of devices and using all forms of parental controls, social media can still create problems. Although social media sites have policies in their terms of use that define and prohibit inappropriateness, enforcing such rules takes time, so even a post later deemed inappropriate (quite a relative term, anyway) stays live until administrators can remove it.

"If the goal is to keep an eye on children but still allow them to enjoy social media like Facebook, then parents must spend time talking to their kids about the dangers and how to avoid them," Wallin said.

One of the foremost things you need to do when your kids create social media accounts is make sure the account settings are not allowing their location to be revealed when they post, as well as restrict who is allowed to see their posts and who can contact them.

"Social media by nature is intended to bring people together," Wallin said. "Without proper instruction or guidance, children may share information that could have a long-term negative impact."

If your teens or tweens are using social media, you should be, too. Insist that they friend/follow you on any social media account they activate and that they do not restrict what you can see. To do this means you need their passwords. That may not make you the coolest parent, but it’ll make you a responsible one. Click here for more social media tips from Parenting.com.

John Pless is the public relations coordinator at EPB.


March 9, 2015