What steps do you take to protect your kids online?

Advocates for children warn that they are at risk from cyber bullying, adult predators and other dangers on the Internet. Today’s Question: What steps do you take to protect your kids online?

  • Joanna

    I have a 15 yr-old. Before she was old enough to go online, I decided that the best way to keep her safe was to learn as much as I could myself about digital tools and culture, so I would be one step ahead. It was the best investment of my time and energy I ever made because I understand how things work.

    Not everyone can or wants to do that, but here are some things I did:

    the computer is in the living room, not the bedroom.

    when she was younger, all her online activity was actively monitored by me so she got used to the idea that it was shared.

    As she got old enough to be allowed to have her own gmail account, I was sure I had the password, and I continue to have access to her accounts, although I don’t publicly associate myself with them (I don’t use Facebook or LiveJournal; she does);

    We have discussed privacy, safety, bullying, etc.

    I tell her that nothing she puts online is private and she should not expect it to stay private, regardless of privacy settings. If she doesn’t want it to be on the front page of the Star Tribune, she shouldn’t press send.

    She knows I can hack her accounts.

  • Comments from the Public Insight Network:

    I have a 12-year-old daughter. We regularly talk about what information is safe to share and also what is appropriate to share. We talk about online etiquette as well. And then we monitor her email accounts and her web browsing history. She is aware that we monitor as well. Nothing is meant to be a secret on either side. We have found that open communication and clear expectations are the critical component. She knows to report anything unusual and trusts that our intention is to protect her, not stifle her. -Kris Donnelly, Minneapolis, MN

    We keep the computer in the kitchen area, which is the most commonly occupied room in the house; that way we can keep a close eye on what they are doing online at all times. We also don’t grant them administrative privileges on the computer so they cannot install anything, and password protect our adult accounts so they cannot use those. -Jeff Ingalls, Rochester, MN

    My children are between 8 and 11 years, so my tactics are fairly blunt. No social networks (facebook, myspace). As they grow older, am happy to allow the networks with privacy controls and parental oversight. Currently, anything requiring a username and password has to be approved by mom or dad and the login info available to the parents. And most of all we keep the family computer in the main area of the house. Our 10 year old recently requested to have a blog. And we fully support the increased writing and computer skills this will develop. Of course, we required the blog be by invitation only and that as parents we always have access to the content. Lastly, we limit the amount of time per day they can spend on screens (tv, computer, gaming) outside of school work.. –Annette, Draper, UT

    I protect my children by giving them freedom of choice. I talk to them and help them to develop common sense, but I never limit what they can see or do, online or in books or films. The more they know about the world, the safer they’ll be in the long run. –Dr. Angela Sorby, Milwaukee, WI

    I have two daughters one of them is a 5 years old and already using the web for child friendly programs (PBS). I am always monitoring her access and stay alert to what shows on the screen. However I am concerned as she continues to grow and not been able to monitor what may come through the screen when I am not there. –Eduardo Barrera, St. Paul, MN

    We talk frequently about sites that they visit. We work to educate them about how to use sites appropriately and how, when and where to share information. We let them use Facebook, but go through the privacy settings together so that they understand and are comfortable on what info they choose to share. We also talk about who they are adding as friends. We have chosen to not let them use Twitter, because it is so public and we are concerned about term consequences of having info out there (college admission, jobs, etc). Education and an ongoing dialog is the best way to protect them. Using blocking software is not that effective and kids can easily get around it, much better to educate them, set clear boundaries and remove the computer for a time if those boundaries abused. My kids are 14 and 12. –April Kennedy, Minneapolis, MN

    Sit next to here at the kitchen table when she is online. –Jim Stock, MN

    We limit computer use to a half hour per day. We do not allow them to have a Facebook or MySpace account. They do have their own e-mail accounts. We make sure we are in the house when they are on line. We monitor their choices of on-line activities. – James Armstrong, Winona, MN

    I know their passwords and I routinely go into their accounts and see what they are doing, including what websites they visit, games they play, which songs they download from iTunes, and which movies from Netflix. I have them show me their MySpace and Facebook profiles too. I also remind them that the internet is not private and they must be careful what they do there. I have tried various automatic parental controls, and they are getting better. Once another girl put my daughter’s MySpace up with a line about “For a good time, call…” only in more specific language. My daughter was 12 years old and devastated. I called the girl’s mother and the message disappeared. The damage seems to have faded. She is 13 now. – Lisa Hoesing, Santa Cruz, CA

  • Benjamin Peterson

    The only way, like sex education, is to talk to children early and often. Children cannot be shielded forever, and they need to learn what they might run into online and what they should and should not do online.

  • I use the software that my company makes: PC Pandora 6.0 monitoring software. With it, I can block websites, but – more importantly – I can SEE what she is doing. I know she is safe without a doubt, because I see who she is talking to and what she is saying on facebook. I’ve already had to talk to her several times about her postings – and trust me, it’s not stuff she would be voluntarily telling me. I monitor (as you should) because don’t feeling like hanging her safety on a guess. Which is why we made the program to begin with… check it out: http://www.pcpandora.com