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Back to School Online Safety Tips

Posted by Lisa LaGrou August 14, 2013 Education

altNew School Year Requires Refresher Course on Online Safety
Make an Online Safety Plan

By Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki

On his web site, Christopher Burgess, a leading and renowned Internet safety expert, poses an important question: Do you know how your children are accessing the Internet?

Whether it’s at home, at a friend’s house, at the library, on their smart phone or some other Wi-I-FI-enabled device, kids are accessing web sites every day. Therefore, parents and caregivers must be continually aware of what their kids are reading and looking at online.

As a new school year begins, Burgess’s question requires everyone’s attention – again. It’s good to have gentle reminders about online safety because it’s such a potentially dangerous place for kids to be. We warn them about not talking to strangers, teach them to look both ways before crossing the street, and tell them not to wander away from us in the store aisle, so why wouldn’t we try and do everything we can to protect our children online, too?

“Why does it matter?” asks Burgess in his online safety blog. “Knowing how your child accesses the internet and with whom they are engaging are the first steps in crafting an online safety plan for your child.”

As Burgess notes, “family is our responsibility.”

As with any important conversation, sit down with your child and ask them questions about their computer behavior at home and away from home and work on a safety plan together – scheduled online time, restricted web sites, etc. The plan can be mutually acceptable if you explain to your children, in an age appropriate way, why the plan is necessary. They’ll be more receptive to an online safety plan when they fully understand your reasons for it.

A couple of years ago, I heard a piece of advice that I will never forget (I’ve mentioned it in previous articles on this site): treat computers as you would guns. While that sounds dramatic, it’s a great piece of advice from the husband of a local teacher. He works in the field of white collar crime, tracks online criminal behavior and has taught parents how to monitor their children’s computer usage.

Before your child visits a friend’s house, ask the friend’s parent or caregiver if they have an accessible computer in the house and if they do, tell the parents that you don’t want your child using it, then instruct your child not to use it – even if their friend insists otherwise. I’ve always had the opinion that when playing together, children don’t need to use a computer together. There are plenty of other things kids can do to play and have fun.

It may be awkward at first to ask parents about their computers and other Internet devices – it was for me – but it’s important to know. Period. So, as children make new friends this school year, have a chat with the other parents and express your views on computer usage when your child is under their supervision.

“In sum, our families are our responsibilities,” writes Burgess, “don’t proxy this to anyone or any service provider.”

Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki is a stay-at-home-mom, freelance writer and marketing professional. She has written articles for Michigan History Magazine, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and several local publications. Tiffany has a particular interest in Internet safety and other technology issues and appreciates the chance to share her interest with OCM readers!

Click here for more internet safety articles from Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki.

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