Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Online Safety Of Your Children Starts With You As A Parent

By Coenraad De Beer

Parental control software is far from perfect and your kids are smarter than you may think, they will always find a way around them. Companies developing this software make millions out of parents neglecting their responsibility as a parent. What is the use of restricting the access on their computer, if they can find other ways of accessing the sites they want? You cannot use a computer program to prevent them from watching indecent TV shows and movies, you cannot use a computer program to prevent them from reading indecent magazines and books, you cannot use a computer program to help them choose their friends or prevent them from using drugs, you cannot use a computer program to protect them from predators.

You, as a parent have the responsibility to educate your children, when they are old enough to understand, about what is right and what is wrong in life. Many kids buy their own books, computer games, they rent their own DVD’s, some even have their own TV set, so it is useless, in fact foolish, to control only one source of bad influence on your children? You are only treating the symptoms and not the root of the problem and the root is lack of proper education and raising your children without good moral values. People do not take it serious when they are warned against the damaging effects of exposing children to all the explicit sex, nudity, violence and bad language through all the different mediums available to us today. When these immoral acts negatively affect adults and offend them, what effect do you think does it have on young children? I know that immoral material on the Internet sometimes make an appearance through unsuspected pop up windows, but these pop ups normally appear on sites where children should not have been in the first place. Our moral values have degraded so much that indecent web sites are not seen as "bad" anymore. The adults consuming this content today are the product of a previous generation of people who threw all moral values overboard.

The online safety of your children is not only about maintaining high moral values, it is also about keeping them away from online predators. These people are active on IRC channels (chat rooms), forums and may even contact your child via e-mail. So many teenagers have walked into the trap of deception. There is no way of verifying the identity of the person on the other side of your computer screen. An adult online predator, pretending to be a teenager, can easily mislead your teenager into believing that he/she has found a good online friend. This is why online dating is so dangerous, not only for children but adults as well. Online predators can behave well, they can be friendly and kind, they can be sympathetic to the problems of your child and you child can easily find comfort in that. Never let your child meet an online friend without your presence and tell them how dangerous it is meeting or talking to total strangers without parental guidance.

Educate your children not to give personal details, addresses and telephone numbers to anyone online, you should determine whether it is safe to provide these details by assessing the situation. There may be circumstances where these details are required for subscriptions to safe online services your child might want to use. You should be the judge of which services are suitable for your children and which ones are not. If you are unsure of the safety of a certain service, ask for the opinion of an expert or someone else already using it. Do not give your children too much power if they cannot use it responsible, too much control is not good either and you should find a balance between the two. If you fail to find a balance, you will end up compromising the safety of your child in the online and as well as the offline world.

Trust goes both ways and the trust showed by the one party will help win the trust of the other party. You need to be able to trust your children, trusting that they will stick to the rules you make. You should make it clear what the consequences will be if they disobey and misbehave, be consequent with your actions and make no exceptions to your own rules. They should also be able to trust you, knowing that you will not invade their privacy. Breaking into their e-mail accounts and reading their e-mails, or installing spyware to spy on their online activities is not the right way of protecting your children. Both parties should be open and honest towards each other with everything they do. Your child should have enough confidence in you, to turn to you when he or she is unsure of something or did something wrong. Not taking your child serious in such a case will break down the trust built up between the two of you and you will end up being the direct cause of his or her mistakes. Children are a gift from God, never neglect your responsibility as a parent.

About the Author
Coenraad is webmaster and founder of Cyber Top Cops, leaders in Internet security, prevention of online fraud and educating users against online scams and malicious software.

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