Internet and Television Safety: Parents are the Safety Net!

The online and television world can be a very exciting place for kids and youth, giving them the ability to do research for school projects, play games and interact with one another, learn educational information from and keep up with the latest trends in clothing and food. But the Internet and the television are completely public environments, one that can pose risks to kids and youth and also one that provides a challenge for us as parents to help protect them.

Some parents are computer savvy due to the type of work they do on their jobs. However, other parents may not understand how parental controls work with the cable television on when dealing with the internet. There are many parents and educators who are unaware of what children are exposed to online and on television.

The Internet- Facebook, smartphones, cable television, and Hulu tv, for example, are on-line tools that are enabling children to fall victim to exploitation (marketing ads), abuse, bullying and adult sexual content. The entities mentioned have no legal responsibility to police what your children watch or surf on the internet.

Even though this topic has so many small concerns, together they make a big scary subject of "lack protection" for our children. We cannot prevent people from doing bad things, but we can teach our kids to recognize inappropriate content and behavior and talk to an adult. We need to foster strong individuals and teach behaviors that prevent risk. Parents are the greatest protection for children.

Here are a 5 safety tips to help parents keep their children safe:

  1. Know the media your child is seeing so you can have real conversations together about it and make informed decisions about what limits to set that you can explain and discuss with your child.
  2. Create rituals and rules about the media in your child's life as well as when, how and what occurs while on-line or watching television. This helps avoid constant nagging and stress about a certain program or website. Children do better when they know what is going to happen and when.
  3. Work to establish safe channels of communication, where your child knows she/he can talk to you about what she/he sees, hears and thinks without being embarrassed, ridiculed or punished. Children need a safe place to process what the sexualized highly marketed environment exposes them to — and parents can play an essential role in providing it.
  4. Take advantage of privacy settings by using the privacy settings offered on Facebook or other social media sites, you decrease the chances that online predators can view photos you post for family and friends.
  5. Stress the importance of online safety and help your child become a savvy Internet user, focusing on issues of privacy, levels of engagement with others and "netiquette." Talk about the value of personal information, discouraging her/him from sharing personal identifying information (name, address, phone number or any other details that could identify her/him to someone else online). Show her/him how to select and use a screen name — never revealing real names — and how to set privacy preferences on social networking sites where she/he has a profile.
Nicole Daniels
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