Parents, welcome! We have gathered many resources for you to explore and learn about keeping your children safe on the Internet. These resources have so much information that it may seem a bit hard to get through it all, so we've separated some topics here in order to answer a few key questions many parents have. Also be sure to read through the student section to learn more about keeping safe online.
Why is my child spending so much time on the Internet? What are my children doing for hours on end while on the Net?
Did you know that there are billions of web pages on the Internet? Billions! Over the past couple of years, a shift has occurred from a place to go to look up information to a place where the users are creating and writing the content themselves, through blogging, podcasting, video sharing, and wikis.
What is MySpace?
MySpace is one of several hundred social networking websites on the Internet. A “social networking” website is one where people gather together with friends to exchange information, such as blogs, photos, videos, and music. Sites like Facebook, Bebo, Classmates, and Friendster allow users to set up profiles and to customize their “space,” much like the way teenagers decorate their bedroom walls with posters of their favorite bands, movies, and artists. Previous generations might have hung out and cruised down Main Street on a Saturday night; now, they hang out at MySpace.
What is blogging, podcasting, IM?
A blog is a web log, similar to a journal or diary (think of the log the captain of a ship might have kept of the daily chores and shores on his trip). Some other identifiable features of blogs are “posts” or daily entries, hyperlinks, photos and videos in reverse chronological order; that is, the most recent entry will be up at the top of the webpage. Most bloggers (those that write blogs) also allow others to leave comments about their writing that anyone can read.
Here are a few education-related blogs to look at:
A podcast is, simply put, an audio file that others can download and listen to at their leisure. Somewhat similar to a radio broadcast that listeners can tune in to at a set day and time, but instead, podcasts allow listeners to subscriber to their favorites, transfer to their portable MP3 players and listen while exercising, on the road, or at their desks.
Here is a list of some fun and educational podcasts that you can download or subscribe to:
IM, or Instant Messaging, allows users to participate in live chatting with friends. Just a few years ago, the big thing were chatrooms, or chats, social gathering places on many websites, a sometimes chaotic, live “room” where 20 people might all be talking at once, to everyone or to just one person. Nowadays, your children are probably chatting with their friends using a program that comes with your computer, Windows Messenger. A big difference between an IM and a chatroom is that a website's chatroom allows anyone to enter and talk with everyone else in the room, but an IM generally is a one-on-one conversation with a pre-determined friend's list; that is, a list that the users maintain themselves.
Some other IM programs that are popular are:
Internet slang and lingo
Do you know what LOL, btw, brb, cu l8r, and IMHO mean? Those are some pretty safe and fun Internet lingo terms that many people use on the Internet; they're a lot faster to type. But, parents should know which ones to look out for if their children are using IM, chatting, or text messaging on their cellphone, like POS (parent over shoulder), PIR (parent in room), and the most fear-provoking one of all, LMIRL (let's meet in real life).
Setting up rules and guidelines
One of the best rules a parent can set at home is this: keep the computer in a high-traffic place, like the family room. Do not have a computer in a child's room where it cannot be monitored.
There are several web sites that have good ideas on setting up a contract between you and your child on use of the Internet: how much time is allowed online, what sites can be visited, and what steps should be taken if something occurs that makes your child uncomfortable. One important thing for parents to understand is that many kids will not come to their parents for help because they think they will over-react and take away their computers. If a contract or a set of guidelines are set up and agreed upon ahead of time, both parties should feel comfortable and will know what to do if something should occur. Print one of the following pledges or use them as a guideline to create your own.
For parents who feel they need to go a little further in safeguarding their children and their computers, there are a variety of programs that can be installed on the home computer. These programs come with a variety of features, like being able to filter out unsuitable websites, to record Instant Messaging and chat conversations (some will even automatically email the log of your child's conversations), and to monitor all other Internet activity.
Browsers for young children
A browser is the program we use when we explore the Internet. The majority of us use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but there is also Mozilla's Firefox and Apple's Safari, and even specialized browsers for the newer gaming systems, like the Wii and Nintendo DS. There are several kid friendly browsers that you can download and install on your computer for a safer Internet experience.
Looking at the history and the cache
Your computer keeps a record of all the websites that are visited in several different ways. Your Internet browser (like Firefox or Internet Explorer) uses the computer hard drive to store copies of the webpages, images, sounds and cookies in a special folder called the "cache" or Temporary Internet Files. The next time you go to visit that same page, the browser will check the date and time of the file of the Internet page to see if it is newer; if not, the browser will load the one on the hard disk instead of downloading it from the Internet.
Parents can check their computer's cache to see what and where their children are browsing.
In IE version 7, in the Browsing history section, click on Settings, then on the View files button.