As hard as a parent tries to put measures in place to prevent her children from danger online, it can all be for naught when the child goes to visit others, including grandma and grandpa. This is not to say that grandparents don’t want to protect our children from the dangers that lurk online—they simply might not be aware of them or how to protect from them.
Here, you’ll find some quick and useful tips for the wonderful grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even parents of the world who might need to make a few updates to both their safety practices and to their computers in an effort to keep our kids safe.
First, let’s review some of the types of places online where a child could run into trouble.
Social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter can not only be harmful to children from a bullying standpoint, but children can fall victim to strange adults befriending them and engaging in inappropriate conversations. There are many people who build fake profiles on Facebook—in fact, according to Forbes, it is estimated that over 83 million of these fake profiles exist.
Children and adults need to be aware that people on these sites aren’t always who they seem to be (someone with the profile of a 12-year-old girl might be a 40-year-old man).
Chatrooms. The same types of people can be found lurking in children’s chatrooms—these rooms should generally be avoided, as they tend to require an email address to participate. If a child is using a room like this, insist on getting an introduction to their ‘friends.’ Also insist that no photographs be shared at any time, and be sure that zero personal contact information is provided by children to one another in these instances, as chat rooms are known hangouts for pedophiles.
Games. Children love online games, and there are often chatrooms within games. This is another common place where a pedophile might look to engage with a child.
Scared yet? Don’t be. The types of websites discussed above don’t necessarily need to be avoided at all times, but caution must be taken when using both those types of websites, and all internet sites. There are a few steps you can take to protect your children and grandchildren:
- Protect your children and grandchildren online with a product like SafeEyes. This software from McAfee allows you to block children from any website you like (with a default list already in place), generates activity reports on all sites visited and games played, all instant messages typed, all music listened to…virtually every possible behavior the child could engage in. And the software is available both online and for your phone.
- Make Google’s SafeSearch for Kids your browser’s homepage, and lock it in as the browser of choice for your computer, enabling Google’s highly protective filtering help to prevent your child from seeing inappropriate imagery or text.
- We all need to work together. If a child receives any suspicious emails or instant messages, be sure to send those to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to alert them so that other children might be protected from the offending individual.
- Above all, ensure that your child NEVER releases any personal contact information online. There is a primary law that protects children online called COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), which, according to KidsHealth.com, “requires websites to explain their privacy policies on the site and get parental consent before collecting or using a child’s personal information, such as a name, address, phone number, or Social Security number.”
We all know, however, that laws and software can only protect our children to an extent. Frequent check-ins and discussions about what appropriate online activity is, and proactive monitoring of a child’s online activities are the best ways to ensure that our children stay safe in their use of the internet.