Introduction to Internet Child Safety
Who Am I?
My name is Joshua Lee. I post this paragraph on each article I write so people know who I am. I'm currently a student at the University of Central Florida. I've been working in the computer industry for 6 years now, either at work or just repairing friends and families personal computers. I've built computers, saved corrupted data, managed websites, sanitized computers of viruses, and helped others to improve their computer security.
My Childhood and The Internet
Well, when I was younger the internet was just starting to become the big thing. I was a 90's child, and got my first internet connection in my house at the age of 10. Naturally, I knew a little bit about the internet from friends, but my mother knew absolutely nothing about it.
We joined America On-Line, the major service provider at the time. I basically set up all of our accounts for the family. AOL has some child safety settings, but I gave my account complete access to everything. In retrospect, this wasn't the safest thing to do by any means, but what did I know I was 10 :)? I don't blame my mother for this, as she knew even less about internet than i did, and had no idea of the potential dangers of the internet. Thankfully, nothing bad ever happened to me for the next 6 years, but it certainly could have. Reading this will make sure that you know all of the dangers, and make sure your child is aware of them as well.
So How Safe Is The Internet?
The Internet is here to stay. Period. Even if you totally ban your child from doing these things at home, they'll do it at the library, at school, and at friend's houses. Since it's impossible to stop them from reaching the Internet, you need to make sure that they're well prepared and knowledgable for what's there.
Honestly, it's all about education. Just like drugs, you need to educate your child on the dangers of the internet early (hopefully, of course, your child will never use drugs). If educated, the internet can be a fantastic place to talk with friends, do research, and really express yourself. If uneducated, the internet can be a very hazardous place, especially for children.
There are a few talking points that you definately need to address with them which I'll go over, and there is a lot of free software you can download to help make sure their experience is safe, which I'll also go over.
How Old Should My Child Be Before Going On The Internet?
That's a difficult question. It depends on a number of factors. My five year old cousin Ben, for instance, has simple online games that he likes to play. Does that mean it's safe for five year olds to be using the internet freely? No.
Until your child is well into their teenage years, any computer with open internet access should be either in the master bedroom, or out in the living room or some other relatively public place. There should be no reason for your child to be doing something that you shouldn't see. If your child wants privacy when viewing email from friends, that's fine, you don't need to be standing over their shoulder.
In many of the internet applications that I describe below, the threshold age is about 10-11 years old. Did I pick this arbitrarily? No. I've seen kids of all ages use the internet and I know what they're likely to do. All children mature at different rates of course, but this is a good place to start. Before the age of 10, you should be there with anything your child does on the internet. Starting with Part 1, there are descriptions of just about all the problems you're likely to face with your child on the internet.
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