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Keeping Your Child Safe on the Internet

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4. Know that location is key
Keep the computer in a central spot, where it's easy to monitor its use. "We have five computers in our house, but only two  -- mine and the PC in the family room  -- are hooked up to the Internet. That way, I can frequently check up on what they're looking at," says Cecilia Mitchell, a mom of three in Teaneck, New Jersey.

5. Be their go-to girl
Instruct your child to come straight to you when she sees anything that makes her uncomfortable, and assure her that you won't overreact, blame her, or immediately rescind her online privileges.

6. Turn your ISP into your ally
Before buying a safety product, experts recommend that you work with what you've got, starting with your Internet service provider (ISP). America Online, MSN, SBC Yahoo!, EarthLink, and others have reliable, free parental controls that can limit children's access to websites and communication features (e-mail, instant messaging, chat) by age, content categories, time, and other choices.

7. Make your browser work double-time
If your ISP lacks that capability, you still have some safe-surfing options at hand on your browser (the program that enables you to view web pages). Internet Explorer has Content Advisor (under Tools/Internet Options/Content), which filters out language, nudity, sex, and violence on a 0 to 4 scale. Netscape and Safari (for Mac users) have parental controls like filtering as well. Using your browser won't get you the comprehensive results that a safety product or your ISP would yield, but it can be suitable for the times you're sitting next to your little one surfing the net.

8. Tune up your search engine
Your search engine can be pressed into service for free. (But be aware: A savvy child could switch the settings back.) Once you set restrictions, Google will block sites with explicit sexual material (Preferences/SafeSearch Filtering). AltaVista puts several types of offensive content off-limits with its Family Filter (Settings/Family Filter setup).

9. Stay in a kid-friendly zone
For beginners as young as 4, consider confining online exploration to web addresses that list child-safe sites on everything from TV, movies, music, and games to world history, science, and trivia. Some good choices:
* web directory Yahooligans
* answer supplier Ask Jeeves for Kids
* the American Library Association's Great Web Sites for Kids
* the U.S. government's "Dot Kids" domain .

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