You may be tempted to return that newly-purchased computer or to pull the plug on the Internet completely, but experts say that banishing the Internet from your home is not the answer. "That's not going to work because your child has access to computers in so many places," said Nancy McBride, national safety director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Public access can be key to nurturing a safer online environment in your home. NCMEC recommends that you put your family's computer in a public area, such as a family room or living room.
When the computer is in a high-traffic area, parents and guardians are more diligent about checking on its usage. Easy access allows a parent or guardian to monitor activities and how much time children spend online.
Internet filters and blocking software can be helpful tools for parents and guardians, according to McBride. "But just like in the real world, they are still no substitute for a parent's guidance and supervision."
And don't be afraid to ask questions. It's okay to ask who your child is talking to online. After all, you wouldn't allow your child to go to another person's house without knowing who the person is — the same rules apply online. "Your child should have no expectation of privacy on a computer," said McBride. "The computer is not their personal diary."
The point is not to be overbearing and nosey — it's to be as informed about your child's online life as you are about his/her "real" life. You should know who your child has on his/her buddy list. Find out their favorite online hangouts and websites. Set rules and guidelines for what they can and cannot do online.