How can I keep my kid safe on the Internet?
Carve out a space: For younger kids, having a family computer in an open, shared location (like a family room or home office) can be one way to keep tabs. But with older kids, that might not be such an easy task. You can install monitoring software and/or filtering, but kids often find ways around these. Parental controls can help, but they won't teach your child how to behave outside your home, where "everybody's doing it."
Get tech savvy: If you don't know as much about computers as your kid(s), ask them show and tell you where they're going online. If you need to bone up on your computer skills, most areas in the U.S. have local computer user groups, offering introductory computer classes for free or a nominal fee. Search online for: "[your city name] computer user group," and you're bound to get some leads.
Learn the lingo: In order to talk tech with your kids on their level, you need to speak their language. Two-way communication is key: You want your child to feel comfortable enough to come to you if something or someone questionable comes to them. But more importantly, you want to establish that they won't be punished if they come to you first.
Chat offline: Before your kid logs on, talk to him or her about the types of things online that can be misleading, i.e., someone requesting a private chat or asking them for personal information about where they live, what they look like, how old they are or their phone number. Make sure to have a dialogue and not a monologue: Not only does this empower your child, but again, it can make him or her feel more comfortable about coming to you with questions down the road.
Explain anonymity: Having an anonymous persona online is an in-depth topic all by itself, but needless to say, it's important your child understands that on the Internet, things are not always as they appear. The photo of the 13-year-old posted on their favorite social networking site or online profile may not show the actual person they're communicating with.
Take extra precautions: Determine whether you really need that webcam or not. If you do, make sure it is only used with parental supervision. A large portion of webcam usage is adult-related. What's more, there are certain individuals who take abnormal pleasure in viewing children's ordinary activities online.
Make a deal: You can always set ground rules when appropriate. But instead of restricting Internet access, many parents have found an agreement in writing—a contract of sorts—helpful. I have made links available to some sample contracts on my blog.
So, in short, don't be afraid of the Internet. It can be a great place for entertainment and a wealth of information (You're online now, aren't you?). When it comes to the positive parenting of your kids, just remember keep the lines of communication open.