Internet Nanny: a reader asks…
I have an 8-year-old who’s wanting to use the computer. We only have one computer in the house. What’s the best way I can make sure my child doesn’t visit the seamier parts of the internet?
One word: supervision. As in yours – you looking over their shoulder while they use the computer. That is really the only way you can make sure they stay safe. There are tons of software programs out there that purport to keep your child safe online, as well as strategies like creating their own user account and restricting it. But parent after parent who’ve tried these programs and methods have reported back that they are lacking in control. Your child is 8 now, but soon they’ll be 12 and will be able to easily bypass any automated program you use to protect them.
The best protection is education. Take the time to explain to your child what the internet is, and what dangers it can pose. Dodgy websites can infect your computer, rendering it useless. Social media sharing can put your child in the sights of a pedophile. Indiscriminate clicking can cause your computer to malfunction (also rendering it useless). Parenting.com has a great article that you can use to inform yourself, so you can better inform your child – read it at http://www.parenting.com/article/keeping-your-child-safe-on-the-internet.
There are plenty of other online resources you can use to help you know better how to protect your child online. I’d suggest you do a web search with this phrase: “keep your kid safe online“. Skip over the search results that will try to sell you software, services and apps for parental control. Hone in on the sites that just offer advice. Hint: most of them will tell you the same thing I’m telling you, that keeping a watchful (physical) eye on your child’s online activities is best.