When it comes to parent contracts there is really no limit on how to customize them to meet the individual needs the family is facing at any given time. In this post we want to take a look at how parent contracts can be used to help ensure Internet safety for kids. With Internet access now available in nearly every household in the United States, as well as in schools, on cell phones, and just about every place one goes, it is natural that parents are concerned about Internet safety for their kids. Elementary schools and even some pre-school settings use the Internet on a limited, but regular basis. This use of the Internet is educational and beneficial to our kids and offers a lot of great resources that were not previously available to all.
On the other hand, if you read any current events, local, or national news stories you know that there are multiple incidents daily, that are in some way linked to Internet use. Stories about sexual predators using the Internet to find and befriend victims are rampant. As a parent I am reluctant to let me kids use the Internet at all. Children doing research for a school project can easily happen upon inappropriate material, kids using social networking sites are being cyber bullied, not only by other students but in some cases even parents. Nevertheless, this is their future. Teaching them to use the Internet to take advantage of the good while navigating around the bad is critical. Schools can do this by integrating expensive filters and software to block explicit content, but for the regular household it can be a bit more complicated.
While there are a lot of great free filtering software programs available, these will not filter everything and can not filter what is said in a private message or through email or a social networking sites. To truly keep kids safe o the Internet parents MUST be involved and teaching their kids about how to stay safe. Some safety tips from fbi.gov reminds kids (and these would apply to anyone using the Internet):
- Don’t give out personal information on the Internet to people you do not know; this includes name, address, phone number, name of a school or other facility they attend, or pictures of themselves or family members.
- Do not send private messages or converse with people that scare you or make you feel uncomfortable.
- Do not meet with someone you do not know without the permission of your parents.
- Always report messages or content you come across that makes you uncomfortable, to your parents or a trusted adult.
- Remember that who someone says they are online is not always who they really are.
The anonymity of the Internet can at times be a very bad thing. A middle age predator can easily create a profile disguising himself as a young teenage boy or girl in an effort to befriend those he chooses to prey upon. Social networking sites often reveal information about what school a person attends, sometimes where they work, and other personal information. Predators can then use this information to appear as though they are a trustworthy associate that goes to school with the individual or is a customer at work or something else to try and establish a connection and relationship with the individual.
A parent contract gives both parents and children the opportunity to sit down and talk about what is available on the Internet, what is good, what is bad, what is allowed, and what isn’t. A parent contract to ensure Internet safety for kids needs to be detailed and specific. It may include what social networking accounts a child can sign up for, what email accounts are allowed, whether or not a parent will have the user name and passwords to the accounts as well as how much time the child is allowed to spend on the computer each day and what type of activities they can use the Internet for. Children need limits. Not only for their own safety but also for the structure and discipline needed for them to develop successful life skills. If an elementary age child is allowed unlimited time to play games online, staying up late into the night, having no rules about homework, chores, or anything else is creating very bad habits that will carry over into their high school and college life as well. If habits are developed early on that require the child to finish all homework and household responsibilities before signing into any social networking or gaming sites and then having limits set on the number of hours and cut off times in the evening for Internet use, children will develop lasting habits that can help them succeed.