Missing Persons Clearinghouse
Guidelines For Parents
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- Learn everything you can about computers, the Internet and other electronic devices (i.e., cell phones, BlackBerries, gaming systems with online capabilities), including:
- Hardware, software and terminology.
- Misuse and risks.
- Service provider and device settings (i.e., browser settings, site blocking and filtering, parental/account owner controls.)
- Develop and strengthen proficiency through use. Remember, change is continuous, so what you know today may be outdated tomorrow. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for guidance from others – including your child.
- Discuss what you believe to be appropriate – and inappropriate – with your children. Keep in mind that this will involve more than one conversation; things will surface that you can’t anticipate and some things change quickly, especially as children grow older.
- Be reasonable and set reasonable expectations.
- Try to understand their needs, interests and curiosity.
- Be specific about expectations (i.e., the kinds of sites that they are allowed to visit, use of social networking sites – blogs and chat rooms, online "friends," divulging personal information, time limits, text messaging.)
- Ensure that your expectations are respected and, if not, take appropriate action.
- Place a desktop computer in a central area of a home, not a secluded area (i.e., a child's bedroom.) However, wireless connectivity through laptop computers and other electronic devices has lessened the value of this suggestion, so it is necessary to ensure that your expectations are understood and respected.
- Understand your child’s need for privacy, but recognize vulnerability due to limited life experiences. Ensure confidentiality, but obtain and store your child's passwords and screen names in the event that they are needed in an emergency.
- Ensure that "profiles" or screen names do not provide information about his or her identity (i.e., sarahissweet14).
- Set reasonable time limits on use and ensure that your expectations are respected.
- Periodically review browser "bookmarks," "history," temporary Internet files, keyword searches and "cookies" files. Also, look at recently created folders and files. You are not only looking for inappropriate links, files, documents and graphics, but the absence of recent "bookmarks," "history," temporary Internet files, and keyword searches can indicate that they have been removed, perhaps for reasons that should be discussed.
- Review invoices relating to text messaging, cellular telephone and wireless Internet access. Not only does this help to avoid exceeding monthly (and costly) plan limits, but will raise concern if unknown numbers appear frequently. It may well be a person who you want to know more about from your child.
- Internet service provider (ISP) and other electronic device accounts should be established and maintained by a parent; they should not be established in a child’s name. (This ensures that a parent can legally maintain control of use and can access records, if necessary. If an account is set up in a child's name, it may be difficult or even impossible to obtain account information without the child's permission or a court order if something unforeseen occurs.)
- Keep in mind that children, especially as they grow older, are likely accessing the Internet and regularly interacting with others electronically from outside of the home.
- Periodically encourage children to come to you if they encounter a problem. If they tell you about someone or something encountered, your first response should not be to blame them or take away privileges, but to work with them to help them avoid problems in the future.
Cause for Concern. Elevate concern if your child:
- Significantly increases online time, especially in a very short period of time.
- Receives phone calls, email, mail or packages from someone you don't know.
- Quickly exits text or instant messaging, blogs, chat, email, websites and other activities when others are nearby.
- Increases use of new slang words, inappropriate sexual knowledge, withdraws from family and friends.
- Begins using new screen names, an online account belonging to someone else, etc.
- Is reluctant to discuss activities or your concerns.
- Security, Privacy, and Internet Safety Videos (Microsoft)
- Intro to Family Computing (About.com)
- Kids Online: Parent's Guide to Internet Safety (About.com)
- Learn the Net
- Kim Komando