Is your child teaching you about the Internet?
With Calgary having the highest proportion of households with regular Internet users among Canadian urban areas (Statistics Canada, 2000), it’s not surprising that children of all ages are logging in for homework, entertainment, games or communication. With our children freely wandering the web, we need to do a little bit of homework ourselves. Why? Most parents use scripts learned from their parents. Sometimes whole sermons have been memorized from a time in the distant past. Very few of us, however, were raised using the Internet. Many of us don’t have a script or a plan for the computer when parenting but we really need one. We were taught to cross the road safely; our kids cross oceans on the Internet. We were taught to immediately leave a burning home or dangerous situation; our kids need to learn how to get away from scary people or sites online. We were taught not to let a stranger through the front door; our children meet these strangers every day and welcome them into their lives, their thoughts and your home. While it starts to feel like it might be easier to just pitch the computer out the window, it’s all about educating yourself and your family on cyber safety. We need to “Parent with a Plan”. The plan can begin with an Internet safety policy or pledge.
You can find a cyber safety plan at www.netsmartz.org. The Calgary Police Service suggests that we:
- Deny: Use appropriate software and pass word protection.
- Deter: Create household Internet policies and educate children on proper Internet use. Detect: Use software monitoring, zone alarms, and block sites
- Delay: Shut down the computer when not in use.
In our technology awareness workshops, parents tell us, “My daughter knows more about ‘passwords, policies and monitoring’ stuff than I do. She could get through it in a second. Besides, I trust her, we don’t need it.” At Parenting Power, we believe in showing our children that we trust them. It’s people on the other side of the screen that we don’t necessarily trust. We also know that one of the best ways to protect our children is to teach them to protect themselves. We encourage you to set up a separate login for each of your children. This will protect them from information that is inappropriate for their age. It will also protect your own privacy by preventing children from stumbling across your visa numbers, bill information, banking passwords, etc. There are also a number of wonderful websites created right here in Alberta to educate children of any age or computer experience, such as: www.badguypatrol.ca (suitable for children aged 5-10 years); www.weron2u.ca (suitable for children over 10 years), www.bewebaware.ca (safety tips by age to assist you in educating yourself and your children). If the above sounds too complicated, here is one important thing that you can do that will help your children to protect themselves: Teach your children how to get away from a website or an Internet stranger that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Post these Instructions Right on Your Family Computer:
- Press control+alt+delete
- Press ESC (top left hand of keyboard) it means escape
- Turn off the computer
- Walk away from the computer
- Tell Mom or Dad (post a work phone number if you won’t be in the home)
Tell them that they won’t get in trouble and that you want them to come for help if they need it. By encouraging your children to come to you for help, you are showing that you trust them and are with them every step of the way. We need to protect our children from strangers they know, those that they think they know, and those that they don’t know. By establishing good habits from the start, our children will know the safest ways to travel the World Wide Web. For more information, visit the Parenting Power website at: www.parentingpower.ca.