- Clear, simple, easy-to-read house rules should be posted on or near the monitor. Create your own computer rules or print the Internet safety pledge. The pledge can be signed by adults and children and should be periodically reviewed.
- Look into safeguarding programs or options your online service provider might offer. These may include monitoring or filtering capabilities.
- Web sites for children are not permitted to request personal information without a parent's permission. Talk to children about what personal information is and why you should never give it to people online.
- If children use chat or e-mail, talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they first "met" online.
- Talk to children about not responding to offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat, or other communications. Report any such communication to local law enforcement. Do not delete the offensive or dangerous e-mail; turn off the monitor, and contact local law enforcement.
- Keep the computer in the family room or another open area of your home.
- Get informed about computers and the Internet. Visit the resources section (Netsmartz.org) to find additional information on Internet safety.
- Let children show you what they can do online, and visit their favorite sites.
- Have children use child-friendly search engines when completing homework.
- Know who children are exchanging e-mail with, and only let them use chat areas when you can supervise. NetSmartz recommends limiting chatroom access to child-friendly chat sites.
- Be aware of any other computers your child may be using.
- Internet accounts should be in the parent's name with parents having the primary screenname, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering devices.
- Children should not complete a profile for a service provider and children's screennames should be nondescript so as not to identify that the user is a child.
- Talk to children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it's not their fault if they see something upsetting. Remind children to tell a trusted adult if they see something that bothers them online.
- Consider using filtering or monitoring software for your computer. Filtering products that use whitelisting, which only allows a child access to a preapproved list of sites, are recommended for children in this age group. NetSmartz does not advocate using filters only; education is a key part of prevention. Visit the resources section (Netsmartz.org) for web sites that provide information on filtering or blocking software.
If you suspect online "stalking" or sexual exploitation of a child, report it to your local law-enforcement agency. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has a system for identifying online predators and child pornographers and contributing to law-enforcement investigations. It's called the CyberTipline®. Leads forwarded to the site will be acknowledged and shared with the appropriate law-enforcement agency for investigation.
Ways to Make Kids Safer
On the Net
- Teach your children their full names, address, and home phone number. Make sure they know your name.
- Make sure your children know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone.
- Teach your children how and when to use 911.
- Make sure your children have a trusted adult to call if they’re scared or have an emergency.
- Instruct children to keep the door locked and not open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone. Set rules with your children about having visitors over when you’re not home and how to answer the telephone.
- Choose babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask children how the experience with the caregiver was, and listen carefully to their responses.
- Learn about the Internet. The more you know about how the Web works, the better prepared you are to teach your children about potential risks.
- Place the family computer in a common area, rather than a child’s bedroom. Also, monitor their time spent online, and the websites they’ve visited.
- Use privacy settings on social networking sites to limit contact with unknown users.
- Make sure screen names don’t reveal too much about your children.
Out and About
- Don’t display your children’s names on clothing, backpacks, lunch boxes or bicycle license plates. When children’s names are visible, it may put them on a first-name basis with someone who means them harm.
- Remind kids to take a friend whenever they walk or bike to school.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they're being followed or need help. If your children ride a bus, visit the bus stop with them to make sure they know which bus to take.
- Take your children on a walking tour of the neighborhood and tell them whose homes they may visit without you.
- Tell your children to get you if they come across a dangerous object or situation.
- Teach your children to ask your permission before leaving home.
- Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside.
- Teach your children not to approach any vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a trusted adult.
- Remind your children it’s OK to say NO to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
- Explain to your children not to go near pools or other bodies of water without adult supervision. All pools your children attend should have a visible lifeguard on duty. If you have a pool at home, establish appropriate swimming hours and supervision.
- Set up “what if” situations and ask your children how they would respond. “What if you fell off your bike, and you needed help? Whom would you ask?”
- During family outings, establish a central, easy-to-locate spot to meet for check-ins or should you get separated.
- Teach your children to check in with you if there is a change of plans.
- Teach your children how to locate help at theme parks, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and other public places. Also, identify those people who are safe to ask for help, such as law enforcement, security guards, and store clerks with name tags.
- Practice safety skills so that they become second nature to your children. While you don’t want to scare your children, it is important to make sure they are aware of potential dangers, so that they can be prepared to avoid them, or confidently deal with them as they happen.