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To ensure that your child's experience on the Internet is a safe one, parents need to check their child's website activity and email. Even for teens, who might think of this as an invasion of privacy, parents need to talk openly to them about their Internet use. Older teens are actually more likely to get into trouble than younger children, because they are more apt to explore the out-of-the-way nooks and crannies of cyberspace and reach out to people outside of their immediate peer group.
If you decide to use software that will block or restrict your child's access to certain websites, discuss this decision with your child so that he or she will understand why it is necessary. Here are other safety tips to consider:
1. Spend time with your child on the computer. Put the computer in a place that can be easily accessed by the entire family. Use the Internet with your child to play games, plan for a family vacation, or learn about new places and people. Ask your child to teach you more about the computer and to show you certain tricks he or she may have learned. Not only will you gain computer knowledge, you will also get valuable information on just how savvy your child is on the computer. Make sure to ask your child what he or she likes on the Internet and to show you favorite sites.
2. Let your child know that you will be periodically watching and monitoring his or her online activities. (Internet security software from companies like OnlineFamily.Norton often include parental controls that can help you encourage safe surfing.)
3. Share an online pseudonym, password, and email account with your child. In this way, you can monitor online correspondences and the Internet sites that your child has accessed.
4. Never, under any circumstances, allow your child to have face-to-face contact with someone they met online without your permission. If you agree to the meeting, accompany your child and arrange for it to take place in public.
5. Don't allow your child to go into private chat rooms without your permission and supervision.
6. Monitor your credit card bill. Many pornographic online vendors require credit cards in order to have access to their sites.
7. Alert your Internet provider if you or your child come across sexually obscene material. You can also notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Cyber Tipline, your local police, or the FBI.