By Linda Criddle

mom and duaghterGet straightforward practical advice on how to steer clear of the hazards of e-mail and instant messaging, approach blogging safely, avoid harassment and bullying online, and help protect your children on the Internet.

Here are the top 13 things you can do today to become safer online:

1. Buy all the safety software you need for your devices, and use good filtering software. Keep them current and use them unfailingly. This should be as automatic as locking your door when you leave the house.

2. Sit down and discuss online safety and come to an agreement with your family and friends. Set rules about how you will protect each other online. Don’t blame, don’t accuse and don’t run scared; simply set some logical parameters to what activities are okay and what information can be exposed online and with whom. These rules need to reflect your personal and family values.

3. Be conscious and selective about whom you interact with online. Dealing with people you know, your family, and friends has relatively low risk. Going into public chat rooms, opening your blog up to the general public, and posting information in other public venues increases the risk significantly.

4. Be sensitive about what you’re putting online that’s accessible to the public, including anything that can personally identify you or someone else; unaltered photos of yourself or information in your profile such as your birth date, town, e-mail address, school name, and so on. These can be used to locate you or steal your identity.

5. Be cautious about email. Don’t open e-mail from people you don’t know or open attachments unless you verify that somebody you know sent them to you. Never respond to email asking you to provide personal information, especially your account number or password, even if it seems to be from somebody you do business with. Your bank (or any other reputable business) should not ask you for this information in an e-mail message.

6. Put your family computer and Internet-connected game consoles in a public room where you can monitor your children’s online activity.

7. Never, ever meet in person someone you’ve met online without taking somebody else along. Remember, people are not always who they say they seem to be online. More than 90 percent of kids who meet an online predator in person end up being abused.

8. Review the features your children have on mobile phones that they carry with them all day.Can they download images from the Internet, instant message with people, or access location services that allow others to pinpoint their location? All of these features could be a cause for concern, depending on your child’s maturity and situation.

9. Inform yourself about how and where to report abuses and create an environment that encourages your kids to report abuse to you. By acting as a responsible Internet citizen, you can help stop the illegal activity, harassment, and predatory behavior of the criminal population online.

10. Don’t let yourself or your kids trade personal information to get so-called “freebies.” Just as in the physical world, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

11. Familiarize yourself with the Internet safety rules being applied in your children’s schools and at their friends’ houses, because they might be logging on from these other locations.

12. Don’t use e-mail addresses, IM names, chat nicknames, and so on that gives away too much personal information. Make them gender-neutral, with no age or location information, and do not make them sound provocative.

13. Sit down with your child and review buddies, blogs, browser history, image files, music downloads, and so on. Let them know you’ll do this periodically. Explain that this is not to violate their privacy, but to protect them and the family from risks.

Excerpt from Look Both Ways: Help Protect Your Family on the Internet by Linda Criddle.

About Linda Criddle

Internet safety childrenOnline child safety expert Linda Criddle has her own consulting company, Look Both Ways Online Safety Consulting. She provides expertise for companies, consumers, law enforcement agencies and governments. Prior to establishing her own company, internet child safety rulesLinda spent 13-years with Microsoft Corp. where she was the Senior Product Manager for Child & Personal Safety for MSN® & Windows Live. Criddle participated in Microsoft-wide child safety planning, and identified emerging risks to adults and children on the Internet. Criddle lectures and advises on Internet child safety risks around the world, speaking at conferences, universities, school districts, parent groups and to teens as well as law enforcement. She is available for radio and television interviews and speaking engagements. Criddle is an active mother of four and lives in the Seattle area.

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Greta Jenkins

Greta Jenkins

Greta Jenkins has been writing for Families Online Magazine since 2004. She is a mom, nurse andcommunity volunteer.
Greta Jenkins
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