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Safe Surfing: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Started On the Web

With modern education veering away from conventional books to multimedia experiences only available online, getting children conversant with the concepts and skills they need to surf the Web is becoming just as crucial as teaching them to read. The worry most parents have is that they’ve seen the nightly news and read the papers, so they hear about the dangers inherent in the Internet for children. This raises a very difficult and delicate problem, because while no parent wants to come off as an alarmist, the emphasis should always be on safety. Here are seven tips to keep your children safe while still giving them the valuable skills they’ll need to keep up with their class.


Choose kid-friendly, safe sites.

Websites just for kids are becoming more popular every day, and many of these sites are designed specifically to promote a safe surfing experience. Sites such as, Poisson Rouge (“Red Fish,” for those who don’t speak French; this site is bilingual), and PBS Kids Play all offer excellent learning and play content in a fun, safe context.

Set a special profile for your child.

Most computers these days are preloaded with operating system software that will let you set up a user profile for your child. These profiles allow you to block sites over a certain rating or to establish passwords that you have to enter before a child can access a site that’s not on the list. While these security precautions may seem tedious and even excessive in some cases, they’re very important to keeping your child safe on the computer and on the Internet. Too many parents give their children the blocking password so the kids can access a site they know is safe, but then forget that there are more than three sites on the Internet, many of them sites you certainly don’t want your children seeing.

Blocking Software

While many sites a parent wouldn’t want their children accessing ask if the user is over eighteen, there are relatively few sites that actually vet users. Simply click “yes” and you’re in. Blocking software such as iRover,, and CyberPatrol can all help prevent kids from accessing inappropriate websites, but just like a personal user profile, this software does require you to manually set accesses and determine what kinds of sites are appropriate for your children.

Safe Email and Social Networking

Email is a useful tool, but it also offers a lot of opportunities for cyber bullies and Internet predators to get at children.  There are safe email services such as Zoobuh and which not only offer secure email for kids and families, along with sites like that offer kid-safe social networking.   They also offer other great benefits such as real-time Internet monitoring (more on this below). states that about twelve percent of parents in twenty-four countries say their children have been bullied. About sixty percent of this bullying happens on Facebook and other social networking sites.

Monitoring Kids’ Internet Usage

Many child education experts and psychologist argue about how much Internet time is too much. A good rule of thumb is that kids’ Web usage should be restricted along much the same guidelines as television viewing. The advantages of many safe browsing programs is that they permit the parent to monitor children’s usage from just about anywhere, and even pull the plug if a child has been online too long. While some parents may regard this as “snooping” or “not trusting the kids,” the reality is that kids’ privacy should always take a backseat to their safety.

Talk to your kids.

Education is the key to keeping children safe. All the software and security in the world doesn’t mean much if children aren’t aware of what constitutes safe behavior on the Internet. Teaching children to look both ways before crossing a street or not to talk to strangers is basic parental fare, and many of the same hazards exist on the Web. Explaining to your children why they can’t go to this site without Mommy’s permission or why Daddy set up the computer so that really cool site everyone at school is talking about is off limits can help foster safe and smart surfing habits.

Be there while your kids surf.

There is no substitute for being present while your kids are online. While security and safe surfing software are great, ultimately you are the best safeguard your child has. Not only does this give you the chance to teach your child new things, but it allows you to monitor surfing habits and prevent kids from going to places you don’t want them to be. Even better, you may find you and your child grow and learn together!

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