The biggest concern I get from parents at my school is how to keep their children safe on the untamed internet.
It’s true, every website links to other places. Children click there by accident–and suddenly they’re where they shouldn’t be. Some parents I know forbid internet use without constant supervision, but that’s onerous to parents and hurts kids. Parents don’t have time to watch over their child’s shoulder (while they are trying to cook dinner, prepare for guests, watch the dog–or do their day job) and kids end up the losers (see this list of great websites for kids to see what they’d be missing).
Here’s what I do to balance both sets of needs:
- Create a start page like this one I use in my class. I put all the links that are being used here so students don’t have to wander around searching. I also keep some of the old favorites so students can revisit in spare sponge time. Sure, it takes a bit of time to create, but not as much as constant supervision.
- Give children a list of acceptable websites like this one. Let them know any website here is acceptable, but nothing else.
- Teach them about internet ads. Show them what they look like so they can avoid them. Kids want to know what the rules are so they can stay out of trouble. There are no bad kids in my classes, just ones that require direction. It’s OK if it takes a few reminders to get the idea across. Children’s minds don’t make the same connections as an adult mind (and that’s a good thing when it comes to creativity) so you might have to come up with two or three–or four–methods of explaining the concept of safe internet use. Here are some websites that will help:
- Don’t download from music or video sites. They have the greatest amount of malware statistically because the Bad Guys know we-all like getting free music and videos. They put your computer at risk for pop-ups, hijacked start pages and more. Free is too expensive when it comes to your children.
- Make sure your firewall is working. Windows comes with a built-in one. Maybe Mac does too. Leave it active. It’s under Control Panel-Administrative Tools
- Do this weekly maintenance:
- Defrag your computer. To quote Windows, Fragmentation makes your hard disk do extra work that can slow down your computer. Disk Defragmenter rearranges data so your disks and drives can work more efficiently. Run Disc Defrag by going to Control Panel-Administrative Tools–Advanced Tools.
- Run Spybot or a similar antispyware program. Spybot is free, which is why I like it. I’ve had good luck with it. Download.com says this about Spybot: The program checks your system against a comprehensive database of adware and other system invaders. The Immunize feature blocks a plethora of uninvited Web-borne flotsam before it reaches your computer.
- Keep your antivirus software active. If you’re paranoid like me, run an antivirus scan weekly to be sure nothing is missed.
- Run Ad-aware once a week to keep malware and spyware off your computer. It has a stellar reputation and is still free to all (although there’s an upgrade that you can pay for).
One last point: pay attention to how your children use the computer. Drop in and watch their activity. Offer to play with them (they’ll love that). Let them know you care about their safety and internet use. That means a lot to children and they’ll be more likely to follow your rules if they know you have applied them because you love them and care about their safety.
This is a good start. Let me know if there’s anything else you include in your weekly routine.