The World Wide Web is a fascinating place. It has obliterated geography in terms of education and business. It facilitates learning by allowing kids to see things and experiences aspects of different places they may never get the chance to see in the non-virtual world. The Internet can bring people together who otherwise would never know each other and create a virtual universe that is totally cohesive, with every kind of information imaginable literally available at your fingertips. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the Internet has a dark side. It is full of material that is inappropriate for children and all kinds of predators. Leaving your kids alone to fend for themselves on the Web is exactly as dangerous at leaving them in a crowed airport or shopping mall. You don’t know where they’re going or who with. The news is filled with horror stories about kids who have been taken advantage of on the Internet, but you don’t want yours to miss out on all the positive aspects of the technology. The first line of defense in keeping your kids save on the Web is to teach them how to use it safely.

A lot of online dangers can be dodged simply by reminding kids of one of their earliest learned lessons: don’t talk to strangers. The kinds of people who want to harm kids have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves. They may try to lull your child into a false sense of security by pretending to be someone she knows. Make sure your child understands that it isn’t a good idea to give out personal information such as their address, phone number or the name of their school. The less information a potential predator has, the harder it will be for him to actually locate a victim. It might be a good idea to establish a secret password and share it only with friends and family so your kid has a way to identify people who are safe to chat with.

Chat interfaces and instant messaging are great tools for keeping in touch with friends and conduct business, but they are also direct connections between your child and possible pedophiles and other predators. Most instant messengers have settings that will only allow people on a pre-approved list to approach your child. That way you can let the kids chat with family and friends while keeping the bad guys out. You can visit http://www.internet-parental-control.org to find more information on online child safety measures.

You can’t watch your kids every minute they are online, and you can’t always count on them to do what you have taught them to do. Parental control software is a great back up. Most browsers will allow you to customize age-appropriate settings for each child in your house. You can choose what kinds of Web sites you want your kids to access and block them out of the ones you don’t. It’s a great way to provide a virtual safety net for your family. If the parental controls supplied by your Internet Service Provider, check into installing additional software that will evaluate each site your child attempts to access. You set criteria by which the software judges each Web page and assigns a rating, much like a movie rating. Your kids will only be able to look at sites with ratings you have deemed appropriate.

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