Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Teens and Online Safety: It is as important as driving safely

Safety and kids are sometimes like oil and water. Parents go to the ends of the Earth to protect their children from harm, yet kids believe they are invincible. That naïve childhood thinking is envious and unrealistic, so the adults must step in at times.

In today’s digital age, Internet safety is quite similar to automobile safety. Both require a higher level of responsibility and can be considered rites of passage. As parents, we’d love to surround our little ones in bubble wrap, but we also know that they must learn to fail in order to grow. Imagine if they never made a mistake!

Here is a little roadmap and a few tips to navigate Internet safety.

Car insurance is a must-have for all drivers, but online insurance is just as important. What do we mean by that? Spyware, adware, and other types of online protection keep your computer and its contents secure. There are many companies that offer such online protection, and your kids must know about it. They should never disable any firewalls to gain access to any sites that could compromise the computer or the files. Of course, no one will give you a ticket if you don’t have insurance on your computer. But a hacker or a computer virus doesn’t need much to steal your online identity or destroy the computer contents.

Restraints in any situation can be a life-saver. While they can’t be buckled, parental controls can guide kids in the right direction when they might be veering off course. Hopefully only used in dire situations, these controls can be loosened or tightened depending on the child and the circumstance.

Reliable Vehicle
Nowadays, computers come in every shape, size, and price range. Remember that not every kid needs his or her own laptop or Mac. The tried but true brands of computers still connect to the same Internet as the higher-end ones. It’s the guidance from parents that makes the difference.

Roadside Assistance
We’ve all been there when a car battery refuses to start or we blow a tire. Thank goodness for roadside assistance, even though some of us hate to admit that we can’t change our own tires. Our kids feel the same way. While parents shouldn’t hover or secretly log into their children’s accounts, parents still need to make themselves available. Fostering an environment where kids can ask questions and make mistakes without judgment is paramount to building trust and opening the lines of communication.

Owner’s Manual
In the end, a plan must be determined by adults and be understood by the children. In no uncertain terms, lay out prohibited and accepted sites and online behavior. No child should be secluded in his or her room to surf the Web, and parents should be aware of what their children are using the computer for each night.

Another tip: Limit online and computer usage. There’s nothing like a breath of fresh air to clear the mind, and your kids deserve that luxury.

Contributor:  Laura Burkey is a freelancer who writes on various topics including home décor, gardens, and online reputations.

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