Parental controls can help you keep your child safe online. The following information explains where to find these tools, and what they can do.
There are three primary places where parents can obtain parental control tools:
1. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP): The best place to start is with the company that provides you with a connection to the Internet, such as America Online, Verizon or Time Warner Cable. Most offer a range of control features, often for free.
2. Your Local Computer Electronics or Retail Store: Here you can buy “blocking and filtering” software, such as Cyber Patrol and CYBERsitter, that include features similar to the ones provided by an ISP.
3. Your Web Brower: You can also use certain web browsers, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, to enforce parental control rating systems.
Depending on the parental tools you select, many of the features include:
- Routing your child’s e-mail first to your account.
- Rejecting e-mail from specific e-mail addresses.
- Limiting e-mail with offensive language and personal information from being sent and received.
- Blocking access to material (text and pictures) identified as inappropriate for kids.
- Permitting access only to materials specifically approved as safe for kids.
- Allowing you to set different restrictions for each family member.
- Limiting results of an Internet search to content appropriate for kids.
- Enforcing time limits set by parents.
- Allowing access only to monitored chat rooms OR blocking access to all chat rooms.
- Blocking private messages between a child and other users.
Have a Talk
Have a talk with your children so that rules can be established for how and when they use the internet, phones, etc.
If your kids are texting, encourage them to respect others. Texting shorthand can lead to misunderstandings. Tell them to think about how a text message might be read and understood before sending it. Also, encourage your kids to:
- Ignore texts from people they don't know
- Learn how to block numbers from their cell phone
- Avoid posting their cell phone number online
- Never provide financial information in response to a text
Sending or forwarding sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages from a mobile phone is known as "sexting." Make clear to your kids that "sexting" is a truly bad idea that can have terrible consequences. In addition to risking their reputation and their friendships, they could be breaking the law if they create, forward, or even save this kind of message. Teens may be less likely to make a bad choice if they know the consequences.
Certain people can pose a danger to children online, and certain information online is not appropriate for children. Most parents have strong feelings about what their children should be exposed to, and are concerned with how easy it is to get information online. Parents should and do worry about materials that are sexually explicit, violent, racially biased, or overly commercial. You can significantly improve your children’s online experiences by following these simple rules:
1. Learn About the Internet Yourself: If you are just starting out on the Internet, see what your local library, community center, school or newspaper offers by way of introduction.
2. Get Involved: Your involvement in your child’s life, including his or her online experiences, is the best assurance you can have of your child’s safety. Learn with your children about fun things to do as well as about the dangers online in a way that makes you a partner in the experience, rather than a resented censor.
3. Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about parental controls and how they can help you keep your child safe online.
4. Become an Advocate for Kids: If you see material or practices online you do or do not like, contact your Internet Service Provider and the company that created the material. Take advantage of this unique opportunity to make sure that this growing medium develops in positive ways for kids.
Treat Your Personal Information Like Cash
Don’t hand it out to just anyone. Your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and bank and utility account numbers can be used to steal your money or open new accounts in your name. So every time you are asked for your personal information – whether in a web form, an email, a text, or a phone message – think about whether you can really trust the request. In an effort to steal your information, scammers will do everything they can to appear trustworthy. Learn more about scammers who phish for your personal information.
Give Personal Information Over Encrypted Websites Only
If you’re shopping or banking online, stick to sites that use encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure).
Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, the entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page of the site you’re on, not just where you sign in.
Protect Your Passwords
Here are a few principles for creating strong passwords and keeping them safe:
- The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack. Use at least 10 characters; 12 is ideal for most home users.
- Mix letters, numbers, and special characters. Try to be unpredictable – don’t use your name, birthdate, or common words.
- Don’t use the same password for many accounts. If it’s stolen from you – or from one of the companies with which you do business – it can be used to take over all your accounts.
- Don’t share passwords on the phone, in texts or by email. Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password. If you get such a message, it’s probably a scam.
- Keep your passwords in a secure place, out of plain sight.
Is the person you're talking to online really who they say they are? That was the subject of a 2010 documentary and subsequent TV show, both named ‘Catfish’.
Catfishing is when a person creates a fake identity of a person online in order to carrying out a relationship with someone. This impersonation can be done in order to run a scam and try and get money, or just for entertainment. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, it is important to protect yourself from this growing trend. Here are some tips:
Use Security Software That Updates Automatically
The bad guys constantly develop new ways to attack your computer, so your security software must be up-to-date to protect against the latest threats. Most security software can update automatically; set yours to do so. You can find free security software from well-known companies. Also, set your operating system and web browser to update automatically.
If you let your operating system, web browser, or security software get out-of-date, criminals could sneak their bad programs – malware – onto your computer and use it to secretly break into other computers, send spam, or spy on your online activities. There are steps you can take to detect and get rid of malware.
Don’t buy security software in response to unexpected pop-up messages or emails, especially messages that claim to have scanned your computer and found malware. Scammers send messages like these to try to get you to buy worthless software, or worse, to “break and enter” your computer.
Check Out Companies to Find out Who You’re Really Dealing With
When you’re online, a little research can save you a lot of money. If you see an ad or an offer that looks good to you, take a moment to check out the company behind it. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” If you find bad reviews, you’ll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk. If you can’t find contact information for the company, take your business elsewhere.
Don’t assume that an ad you see on a reputable site is trustworthy. The fact that a site features an ad for another site doesn’t mean that it endorses the advertised site, or is even familiar with it.
Back Up Your Files
No system is completely secure. Copy important files onto a removable disc or an external hard drive, and store it in a safe place. If your computer is compromised, you’ll still have access to your files
This site was compiled with information from OnGaurdOnline.gov, the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Children’s Partnership Organization & SafeKids.com