There’s an old English saying that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Risk avoidance or prevention, protecting your children from harm is far better than finding out something happened and the painful consequences of having to deal with the trauma afterword.
Monitoring your sons’ and daughter’s online activities can prevent most of the harm from beginning in the first place as well as certain preventive technical controls which can block some of this activity from occurring. Below are some bullet points of what can be done to monitor and protect your children’s online activities. If you are unsure of how to install these technical controls find a local tech that can help.
1. Never permit your children to use the computer alone, especially in their room, they should be in the living/family room/kitchen some wide-open space were you and your spouse if you are together can monitor their activity. This is especially critical when they are very young.
2. Never allow your children root or administrator access to the computer they use. This will prevent them from downloading and installing files or software that can get them into trouble.
3.Use a good and commercial antivirus not a free product. Many times, this free antivirus software’s come with adware, tracking cookies to monitor your online activity and then try to sell you stuff, or worse yet malware.
4. Keep the antivirus up to date and run regular automated scans, at least once per week.
5. Most antivirus come with parental controls, go ahead and configure them.
6. Most browsers also come with parental controls which limit what type of content can be viewed or downloaded online, these should be configured as well.
7. Make sure that you have the online username and password of your children’s online accounts and check their chats. You should not question or ask them about every single chat as they will become anxious and create new accounts that you are unaware of.
Remember at the end of the day they are children, but if you see something alarming you need to discuss it with them openly. If your spouse is available both of you should talk and discuss it with your sons and daughters openly.
8. If your children refuse to give you access to their online account, make sure that you ground them no TV, internet, going out etc until they change their mind. Be sure that if you tell them that you will do this that you go ahead and keep your word and ground them, otherwise the next round you will have little if any credibility with them.
9. Hold them accountable, let them know that you are monitoring their activities and that you are protecting their interests and that if you see something questionable you will ask them about it.
10. Spend time with them online, watching the news online, etc, since you and they will be using the computer in an open space make sure that you talk with them and ask them what they saw that was interesting or new online? What did you learn today? How was your day?
11. Talk to your children and let them know that you genuinely care, love them and want to be involved in their lives. Don’t fall into the trap of the computer or TV Set raising your kids. If you do you will wake up one day to a big nightmare.
12. Keep your operating system fully patched with the latest updates.
13. Keep all applications including office fully updated.
14. Install a web proxy or web filter on their computer. If you know how to do this great! If not again ask a local tech. I realize that this may be beyond the resources of some but if you follow all the other recommendations above you will be in a strong position to keep your children safe online.
15. Tracking your child through their phone. Install software to track their online activities and to locate them. Also, I know what I am going to propose next is a little extreme, but children should not have a cell phone until they turn 18. Just avoid the problems altogether.
I realize that this is easier said than done and that at least by the 2nd year of high school most children will have a cell phone, but it’s worth mentioning.
16. Children and social media. Be sure that they understand the risks of posing too much information or private information online. Explain that if they post something too controversial it could hurt their chances of getting into the college of their choice or finding a job once they graduate.
17. Cyber bullying. Make sure that your sons or daughters realize that they should not bully or allow anyone to bully them. If either of this happens there will be consequences.
18. Social engineering through children. Make sure that your children learn to be discrete and not share personal information about themselves or anyone else online or offline. A good person is one that can be trusted to hold confidences. Make sure that you teach them to be trustworthy and not blabber everything online. The internet is not a replacement for a diary or a confession.
19. Are they tracking your children? By monitoring your sons or daughter’s online activities you can monitor and prevent this from happening in the first place. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.