Parents tell children, “Don’t talk to strangers.” With wide use of the Internet, the possibility of talking to strangers in cyberspace is now an issue as well.
But it doesn’t need to be. Children can make very good use of the Internet without using chat rooms or interactive forums that bring them in contact with strangers.
Parents can help keep their children safe by setting rules and enforcing them. Remember, even if you don’t have a computer at home, your children can still use online services at a friend’s house or even a public library.
So help your child understand that online activity is a privilege. Children should also agree to:
- Limit time online to 8 hours per week.
- Never give out their name, address, phone number, school, or password to anyone online.
- Report to you anyone online who asks for personal information.
- Tell you if anyone sends messages that are uncomfortable or inappropriate.
- Never arrange to meet friends they have met online, unless you are with them.
- Never spend time in adult chat rooms or newsgroups.
- Refrain from using bad language or sending cruel messages.
Build in natural consequences. If any of these agreements are broken, children generally should lose online privileges for one week per broken promise.
Remember: safety online is as important as safety offline.