The Internet and your kids: A safety guide

These days technology is everywhere. And while it can be great and educational for kids, there are also hidden dangers.

Cyberbullying, inappropriate content, online predators and a lack of privacy are all pitfalls of the Internet.

So how can you strike a careful balance between allowing your kids online and keeping them safe? Here are five tips that will help.

1. Keep an open dialogue. Talk with your kids about online dangers and why it’s vitally important not to share personal information with people online.

When you first begin letting your child go online, establish a set of rules regarding Internet use. This can include limits on time spent online not related to schoolwork as well as a specific set of websites that are permitted or not permitted.

When it comes to everyday life, you want your kids to come to you with any concerns they have or when they feel uncomfortable. Remind them that the same is true online. If something doesn’t feel or seem right to them, encourage them to log off and talk with you. Emphasize that no matter what, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

2. Keep computers in common areas. These days, your child or teen may have a laptop of his or her own. That’s great — but make sure the computer is used only in the living room, kitchen or in another area with others around.

Don’t limit this rule to just computers, either. While your child may wander the house or even the town with a cell phone or tablet, set a rule that all devices must be retired to a certain place in the house at night.

With mom or dad within sight, your child is less likely to look at inappropriate websites.

3. Monitor all devices. Keep an eye on how cell phones, gaming systems, tablets and computers are being used. Regularly take a look at the history on each Internet browser to see what everyone in the household is looking at.

Look into safety features that allow you to block certain websites. If your kids or teens are regularly using devices in other places, such as the library, check into what online protection is used there.

4. Surf with your kids at first. When your children first begin to explore the Internet, do it with them. This time spent together is an opportunity to teach kids about how to use the Web safely.

To make it easier for kids to access appropriate content, visit those websites together and then bookmark the sites for quick access.

5. Keep an eye on social media and email. While social media has opened up a world of new opportunities in the last decade, these networks also make it easier for online bullies and predators to gain access to your child.

Because they aren’t seeing someone in person, kids may be more likely to give out personal information, such as phone numbers, addresses and even details about when they leave for school. Emphasize to your child that personal information should be kept personal — not given out to unfamiliar people online.

When your tween or teen first opens social media accounts or an email account, it’s important that you have the user ID and password to access the account. This will allow you to monitor messages and ensure your child is staying safe and appropriate.

When it comes to raising your children, your pediatrician can be a go-to resource. Don’t have a pediatrician or looking for a new one? Find one here.