Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Parents, set boundaries for son's Internet use

Q: My 9-year old son is computer savvy and my wife and I haven't had much issue with letting him use it on his own. He likes to play games and read online comics. I've been hearing more about the threats on the Internet, and both my wife and I are becoming more concerned that we might be letting our son put himself in some dangerous situations. What can we do to make sure he stays safe while he's online?

A: You're right to be worried. As hard as it is to imagine life without the Internet, we sometimes forget that it can be an incredibly dangerous place, home to any number of threats, from identity thieves to viruses and pedophiles. You wouldn't let your child go outside alone without a firm understanding of basic safety rules, right? So why would you let him go online without having similar boundaries in place?

Before you can establish any rules for your son, you and your wife should spend some time reading about cyberbullying, predators and everything else that make up the Internet's dark side. Once you've scared yourselves, you may never want to allow your son (or yourself) to go near a computer again. But you'll need to establish firm guidelines.

Start by identifying some safe browsers and search engines. If you need guidance, Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.com) has some great recommendations. Next, talk with your son about responding to online requests for personal information. Make sure he understands that he should never use his real name or give out seemingly harmless information such as his address or phone number. He should also never give his passwords to anyone but you.

You're not going to be able to get away with, "Don't do this" and "Stay away from that." So be sure to explain why you're setting rules and what the consequences are for breaking them.

Talking with your son is only half the battle. You and your wife have some important work to do as well. Begin with moving your son's computer (or yours, if he uses it) to a place in the house where you can supervise. You don't have to stand over his shoulder and track every keystroke (there are programs that do that for you, if you decide to go that route), but your son should not be alone while he's online on the computer, tablet, phone, or any other connected device.

In addition, insist that your son friend you on Facebook and other social media and that he give you his email and online passwords. All of them. He'll complain that you're invading his privacy, but don't cave. It's your responsibility as a parent to know what your son is doing, and sometimes being nosy is just part of that responsibility.

When it comes to the Internet, there's really no such thing as being too cautious. As your son gets older and proves that he's behaving safely, you can relax — but not eliminate — some of the rules. But until then, be informed and pay attention.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Comments
Puerto Rico embraces 'broken windows' policing amid killings

Puerto Rico embraces 'broken windows' policing amid killings

Federal and local authorities in Puerto Rico say they will implement a "broken windows" policing campaign to fight a surge in killings this month across the U.S. territory
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Man who fled Hawaii psychiatric hospital pleads not guilty

Man who fled Hawaii psychiatric hospital pleads not guilty

A lawyer for a man who walked out of a Hawaii psychiatric hospital and flew to California has pleaded not guilty on his behalf but acknowledged it's obvious his client escaped
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Five straight goals lift Rangers past Flyers

Five straight goals lift Rangers past Flyers

NEW YORK — Rick Nash scored twice while the Rangers notched five straight goals in a 5-1 victory over the Flyers on Tuesday night. Jordan Weal put Philadelphia up 1-0 before Nash, J.T. Miller, Paul Carey and Michael Grabner combined to make it 5-1 by...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
The Latest: Ice keeps some Texas schools closed

The Latest: Ice keeps some Texas schools closed

Roads kept icy by frigid temperatures are keeping many school systems closed Wednesday in East and Southeast Texas
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Trial set to begin in ex-NFL player's road-rage killing

Trial set to begin in ex-NFL player's road-rage killing

Trial in a road-rage shooting that left a former NFL football player dead began with jury selection Tuesday in a New Orleans suburb
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Trial set to begin in ex-NFL player's road-rage killing

Trial set to begin in ex-NFL player's road-rage killing

Trial in a road-rage shooting that left a former NFL football player dead began with jury selection Tuesday in a New Orleans suburb
Updated: 23 minutes ago

Updated: 24 minutes ago
Celtics, Olympics legend White dies

Celtics, Olympics legend White dies

BOSTON — Basketball Hall of Famer Jo Jo White, a two-time NBA champion with the Celtics and an Olympic gold medalist, died Tuesday. He was 71 and had been battling cancer in recent years, though no cause of death was provided. In a statement, the Cel...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
The Latest: Pope meets with Chileans abused by priests

The Latest: Pope meets with Chileans abused by priests

The Latest: Pope Francis has met with a small group of Chilean victims of sex abuse by priests
Updated: 1 hour ago
UNC streak over Clemson at 59-0

UNC streak over Clemson at 59-0

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Graduate transfer Cameron Johnson scored a season-high 21 to help No. 15 North Carolina hold off No. 20 Clemson 87-79 on Tuesday night, improving its all-time home record against the Tigers to 59-0. It’s the longest home winning s...
Updated: 1 hour ago