"Kids these days." That’s what adults for generations have said, usually shaking their heads, when confronted with something they don’t understand about their kids. Kids these days are surprisingly savvy when it comes to computers and the Internet, and shaking your head isn’t going to change that. You need to work hard to stay one step ahead of your child in order to keep them safe. How? It’s not easy, but we have a few tips that can help.
We’re not talking about teens, we’re talking about young kids grades K-4. The secret to keeping this group safe online is to keep yourself educated. Sites like NetSmartz.org are incredibly helpful in teaching parents about the Internet. Not how it works or what it can do--duh, you already know that—but, how children of all different ages interact with the Web, and at what ages, they want and need you next to them while they surf around.
Aside from arming yourself with info, there are other easy no-cost steps you can take. Experts say that the best way to keep tabs on your child’s computing habits is to keep the computer in the family room, kitchen, or any central location. Do not stash it in a spare bedroom, basement, or your child’s room. The second is to set a time rule. Tell your 8 year old, for example, she’s only allowed on the computer 1 hour a day; and set a kitchen timer to keep her on track. This is especially useful when more than one child is sharing the PC. When kids get older, there are programs like TimesUpKidz that monitor usage and shut down the computer when kids exceed their allotted time. Other tips: Make sure the default browser is set to Yahoo Kids and set your PC’s parental filters; Vista has some great parental controls built right in. For added security you can purchase, for about $50, a stricter parental filter like that from NetNanny (which also monitors time usage), Safe Eyes or iShield.
Remember, the key to keeping tabs on your kids is to keep yourself informed and to stay involved in what they’re doing. If you do, you’ll never need to shake your head in wonderment or mutter ‘kids these days’.
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