By Bob Johnson, president of the Child Safety Task Force
Keeping children safe has forever been the fundamental role of parenting. While there are many recognized methods, parents quickly learn that each child is different; so in reality, the hard-and-fast rules of childrearing become much more flexible guidelines -- most effective when a child’s nature, disposition and maturity are taken into account.
Though absolute edicts may seem to be the easiest way to protect our kids, being too cautious, controlling and strict can be just as dangerous if it drives a child to rebel and constantly try to push the limits.
Whether it is learning to cross the street or figuring out how to navigate the worldwide web, the most effective parenting involves working with children to understand the issues and dangers as well as the positive possibilities. This collaborative approach not only safeguards a child in the here-and-now, but also helps him or her develop the skills and discernment necessary later in life.
For many, the internet is just plain fun. It entertains, it connects and even educates. Technology today can deliver useful tools to help parents protect their children while the young ones discover the vast world of opportunity online. Fear of the web won’t serve any child (or adult for that matter). And that’s why having an educated understanding of online fraud, scams and deceits can help users of all ages become internet savvy.
While the internet is an important and useful tool for a child’s modern education and development, there are still some legitimate concerns for parents to be aware of. The Child Safety Task Force cites danger’s on the internet on its Top Ten Risks to Children. Cyber-bullying and social networking among children of all ages can potentially bring serious harm to a child. The challenge for parents is having peace of mind while your family explores the limitless possibilities of the digital world.
Parental control tools work well for the younger crowd. Older children will someday find their way around these controls and must be shown ways to protect themselves – a tool they will need as adults.
Linda Criddle, president of Safe Internet Alliance, provides some useful tips for parents to keep their families safe while surfing the web with her internet safety check list. internet contract for families. One of my favorite suggestions is the idea behind an Internet contract for families. This allows for parents and their kids to have an open discussion and decide together what sorts of activities are appropriate while online. It is important for parents to have regular “check-ins” and discussions with their kids to monitor their online activity and review these contracts.
Our communities play a strong role, as our youth don’t just access the internet from our homes, but also from friend’s houses, libraries, schools, community centers and other public locations. For this reason, it is important that parents also make sure proper safeguards are in place on public computers?that can be used by their children outside the home.
As a consumers, we need to let software developers know what we believe are age appropriate applications. We need to ensure our law enforcement agencies are sufficiently funded and trained to intercept internet fraud in order to stop it and prosecute the perpetrators.
The bottom line is that not just our children, but our whole community benefits from a safe and secure internet -- a vital instrument for reinventing the way we live and work.
We can only imagine how this tool will drive the next generation. It’s up to us to walk that narrow path of guiding our children safely while we watch them marvel at its transforming possibilitiesFor more information and tools to protect your family online visit www.safeinternet.org.