Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Protecting Your Children On the Internet

Whilst the internet may be a fairly new phenomenon for us, for children, it will feel like it has been around forever. Children, as young as five, are getting to grips with the World Wide Web and according to official statistics, as many as half of all children up to the age of eight use a device that is connected to the internet in some way. Not only this but as many as 7.5 million children under the age of 13 use Facebook and 30% of the apps on parents’ smartphones and tablets have been downloaded by their children.

Without the confines of geographical boundaries, the interactive and limitless nature of being online unfortunately means that the internet can be a dark and dangerous place and it is within every parents’ interest to ensure that when their children do go online they are as safe as possible.

Parents are often very concerned about how to protect their children from the perils of the Internet while still enjoying its benefits. With pornography sites just a click away, cults aggressively recruiting online, and sexual-predators actively looking for children in chat rooms and e-mail forums - wise Christians will take sensible steps to protect their children.

Shut down your computer if you come across anything inappropriate. The internet is prone to ‘popping up’ material that is deemed unsuitable for younger users and it is wise to warn your child that if anything inappropriate does ‘pop up,’ they should shut their computer down immediately and inform an adult.

Chat only with people you know. One of the biggest concerns parents have about their children being online is that they may be chatting to strangers that have more sinister motives. To help decrease the chances of this occurring, simply explain to your child that they should only chat online to friends, family and people that they know.

Don’t share passwords. It is also important that you explain to your youngster that they should not share their passwords with anyone other than yourselves. Make your child aware of the importance of creating a password that combines letters and numbers, which is difficult for someone else to ‘guess’ but is easy for them to remember. You should also advise your child to change their passwords fairly frequently and additional security.

Don’t click on unknown messages or attachments. One way hackers manage to hack into accounts and put viruses in computers is getting unsuspecting users to click onto messages and attachments that they send. It is therefore important that you warn

Don't let your kids have a computer connected to the Internet in their bedroom. That's just asking for trouble. You wouldn't let a stranger into your child's bedroom would you? Then why let them in via the Internet?

Put the computer in a public, well-travelled area of the home with the screen facing out into the room. "What about my child's privacy? What about trust?" some parents will ask. Forty years from now, after a long struggle with a life-destroying pornography addiction, your child will wish you had been less concerned about privacy and more concerned about their safety and well-being.

ALWAYS try to have an adult present when children - including (especially!) teens - are on the Internet. Kids and even teenagers are not aware of the potential dangers of idle curiosity. Five minutes of 'curiosity' at the wrong web site could destroy a life.

Educate your children about the dangers on the Internet. The naive child is easier prey, and an educated child will better understand the steps you take to protect them. Tell them why you are setting up safeguards for them, and explain why they should not reveal personal information about themselves (not even their names) online. Remember that you will not always be with your children when they use the internet – they need to be aware of the dangers, so that whether at home, at school, or visiting a friend’s house, they will still exercise caution.

Review your children's e-mail and surfing activities. One parent opened his 9-year-old daughter's e-mail because he wanted to know who was writing to her, and he found in it a photograph of the worst kind. You might feel self-conscious monitoring your children's e-mail, and they might protest, but you may find yourself very glad that you had the wisdom to love your child enough to protect them in that way. There are also many ways to review which websites have been visited, including simply checking the 'History' function on your internet browser. When they have their own house, buy their own computer, and pay for their own Internet access, then they can have their 'privacy'. Until then, God holds you accountable for their actions and their protection. As a deterrent, make your child aware that you, or a computer literate friend or relative, will occasionally perform 'spot checks' on their email or browsing. Monitoring software is available which will watch everything your child does on the computer, and send you email notifications of dangerous activities.

Encourage Avoiding 'chat rooms' and 'instant messaging' if possible. Again, your children will protest, but they simply do not know and understand the dangers that exist. You know better than they do. Yes, you even know better than your teenager! If you permit your child to enter a 'chat room', be sure you sit right next to them – and be aware that chat rooms can be frequented by sexual predators, cult members, and child pornographers.

Face Facts – you cannot always protect your child, eventually they will be exposed to something you would rather they hadn't seen. In these days when the Internet can be accessed on mobile phones and even MP3 players, it is impossible for you to supervise your child at all times. Because of this, you as a Christian parent have a grave responsibility to prepare your child for these future temptations by teaching them Biblical principles, and explaining the dangers the world presents.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it"
- Proverbs 22:6

Ijeoma Olujekun

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