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The best thing that parents can do to keep their children safe is to be active in their children's online life. This can mean signing up for the same social networks as their children and really understanding how they work — especially the privacy settings — or providing direct supervision of small kids during computer time.
Keep Computers in a Visible Area
This might sound like simple advice, but children are much less likely to engage in something dangerous if the computer is in a high-traffic area of your home. If the computer is in the kitchen or the family room, children can come to parents right away when they come across something suspicious online, and they will be less inclined to surf websites that they think might not get parental approval. They'll also be much more cautious when using webcams to make videos or for online chatting.
Set Rules for Website Access
The Internet is vast, and children are not fully equipped to deal with some of the more adult content that it hosts. Parents should tell their children which sites are permissible and which ones must wait until they are older, or set up a software program to block access to adult and inappropriate content. One of the best programs for parental control is Net Nanny, which enables parents to monitor, filter and control how their children interact online.
Understand the Dangers
Many parents may believe that sexual predators are the number-one threat for children online, but studies have shown that this is not the case. According to a report by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, children are facing an increase in online bullying, often called cyber-bullying. This can occur on popular social networks like Facebook. Parents should talk to their children to see if they are experiencing negative comments from their peers online, and discuss possible strategies to prevent this in the future.
Set Guidelines for Personal Information Sharing
To prevent online dangers from turning into offline dangers, parents should discuss the importance of keeping personal information secret. Children should not be sharing their age, full name, address, telephone number, school or any private details about their families, such as their parents' full names or places of employment, with people that they do not know. Parents should produce a clear set of rules that their children must follow when using social networks and other websites so that they do not accidentally give out personal information.