As a father to an 8-year-old daughter, I can tell you I have always thought about keeping her safe. You know, the father that would pretty much scare off any would-be boyfriend, the father who would not allow another human being to even contemplate hurting my little girl. These were the physical things I thought I could control and would do my best to control in her life.
Another facet of protection came into play back in 2005 when I stumbled across a TV show called “To Catch A Predator.” I have been a computer technician for over 22 years now. I saw the Internet become the Entertainment and Information giant it is today, in the public’s eye. But the series “To Catch A Predator” led me to a more seedy side than I thought I would ever see. I knew about Child Pornography and Pornography itself running rampant online and thought that that would not be too hard to keep away from my little girl when she was old enough to get online on her own. But the threats of Online Predators and Cyberbullying and all the rest pretty much terrified me.
Jump to present day. I have been advocating Internet Safety for Children for 6 years now, since that fateful day in 2005 after watching “To Catch A Predator” and after years of newer threats to our children online, we have to understand we can’t do it alone.
I have heard from parents that say they don’t want to invade their child’s privacy, when it comes to monitoring their child’s online activities. I bluntly ask them what is more important … your child’s life or your child’s privacy? Children have died from being lured away after short or long online conversations with, what they believed, was a child their age. Children have been driven to suicide after drawn-out Bullying and Cyberbullying attacks.
Our teens are not mentally mature enough to handle the online community. They don’t see the ramifications of their actions online and how it can affect them offline. Social Networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are basically virtual malls to them. How many parents have driven by the mall to check up on their children? Right, I know just about every hand goes up. Why can’t many parents see you need to do the same thing with watching your children’s online activity? There are many options out there for monitoring your child’s activity. Some offer double-secret hide it from your child secrecy and some are right there for you child to see that it is running and monitoring. I personally want to have an open type of relationship with my child so I tell her of the threats that are out there and I let her know that I will be running monitoring software on our PCs and Laptops to make sure no one is treading on my daughter’s online safety.
With monitoring software you may also be able to head off some online behavior that could hurt your teen’s online and offline reputation. These activities can hurt a teen’s ability to get into the college of their choice or even a job that they were looking into. College Admissions and Job Employers are now watching Social Networking sites to see what their prospective students/employees are up to. Teens put themselves out there so much and if a parent is savvy enough to watch out for this behavior, you may save you and your child a great deal of grief in the future.
It is important for parents to understand that Online Safety for Our Children starts at home, as with Offline Safety. There is no difference anymore. Both online and offline safety can rob our children of their childhood and their lives. We should do everything in our power to protect them, whether you do it secretly or are out in the open about how you are protecting your children with monitoring software. Let them know it is just like the locks on your doors to keep the bad people out, we want to keep the bad people away online also. Just like the anti-virus software you run on your PCs and Laptops you should also use an online monitoring software program to protect your children from physical and mental harm that may come their way while on Social Networking and Chat Sites.