The Internet is a marvelous tool for staying in touch and learning new things, but it's important for kids to stay safe and exercise precautions when using it.
In particular, children and teenagers can be unaware of online risks, such as the danger of libeling a third party or cyberbullying. For example, an Englishman is currently suing 10,000 Twitter users for tweeting and retweeting libelous claims about him. So the following are some tips for parents with children who access the Internet and spend time on social media.
- Children should not give out their full name, address or other personal details unless you approve it.
- Children should not give out their passwords to anyone other than their parents.
- Parents should check the privacy settings of their computers and make sure they are up-to-date.
- Parents should restrict their children's Internet use to computers that are only in the living room or in another common area; this reduces the chances that their youngster will talk online with strangers or visit inappropriate websites.
- Use parental controls available on various operating systems, such as Windows. These controls allow parents to include time limits, provide access to approved websites and restrict use to only certain applications.
- Install antivirus software with regular updates to avoid viruses and other malware.
- Explain to your children what the terms "defamation" and "libel" mean. Emphasize to them the importance of exercising caution regarding what they post on various social media sites and explain that whatever they post can be traced back to you and them. If they cannot post something positive or neutral about someone, then perhaps they should not post at all.
- Create an Internet safety contract. Ask your kids to read and sign this contract, a copy of which should be near the computer. There are premade contracts for this purpose available on the Internet.
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