Children are becoming more technologically independent at an increasingly younger age. They’re surfing websites, downloading content and creating social networking profiles on their own. It’s almost impossible for us parents to be with our kids all the time, to hand-hold and guide them through their entire online experience. What we can do, however, is to equip them with the tools and knowledge needed to be responsible in how they conduct themselves online and the various digital threats.

One of the most important things a child should learn as they become more web-savvy is cyber ethics. Just as how you would teach your child to be respectful, honest and considerate in the real world, it is equally vital that these values are carried over to their online lives. Children should know the difference between using and abusing the Internet. The general rule of thumb for all is to remember that offline rules also apply in the online world.

Curious Cat, Not Copycat

As your child starts going online for homework and building his/her taste in music, movies, and games, it is important for you to let them know that, just like stealing another person’s belongings, it is also wrong to copy digital content and information from others. Show them legal ways to download music, movies, and games. If they are using the Internet as a research tool for their paper, show them proper ways of stating their sources and teach them how to avoid plagiarism.

While we should teach our children how to purchase digital content legally, we should also make them aware of the limits when given access to your debit or credit cards. According to the Norton Online Family Report 2011, over half (54%) of Singaporean parents let their children use their debit/credit card to shop online. However, 43% of these parents have also said that their children have used their debit/credit card without their permission, abused this privilege and overspent.

Stranger Danger

While the use of social networks and social games teaches your children to socialise with others, let them know that communicating with strangers can have real-life consequences. Hidden behind computers, a lot of cybercriminals use false identities to lure unsuspecting victims. Instead of prohibiting your children from communicating with anyone online, teach them how to interact safely with people they’ve met on the Web.

Let them know that personal details such as their phone number, home address or email should not be given to strangers and that unsolicited emails should never be opened as they may contain harmful viruses and malware. Such precautions however, are not a fool-proof solution against all threats. Your child’s computer needs to be equipped with an updated security program, such as Norton Internet Security or Norton 360 which provides a safety net against viruses, spyware and spam attacks.

Mind Your Language

When using email or Instant Messaging, be sure that your children are aware of the language they use. These days, there are many acronyms being used that are actually vulgar phrases and it is important that kids respect those they talk to online and avoid saying anything that they would not say in real life.

Think Before You Click

Viruses and malware present an immediate danger online. As our children go about the cyber world, they will undoubtedly encounter numerous flashing ads and links which offer free games or cool screensavers. Clicking on these however, would more often than not result in malicious software being downloaded into your child’s computer, which may result in the loss or compromise of personal data. Tools such as Norton Safe Web Lite allows URLs to be scanned and provide a report on any potential risks in visiting the site, as well as helpful user reviews on the overall security of the page. This enables online users to make informed decisions on the websites they visit.

It’s All In The Family

As your child begins to venture deeper into the online world on their own, it is important that we as parents actively monitor their online behaviour so that we can address any mistakes that they make along the way. Software such as Norton Online Family helps you achieve this by providing information on your child’s online habits, such as the websites they visit, people they contact and time spent online.

Such information can foster and encourage feedback and discussion between you and your child, helping them to develop the necessary habits and practices to become internet-savvy and smart kids. This tool is now made available for Android, iPhone┬«, iPod touch┬« and iPad™ devices. Without having to open a Web browser, parents can monitor their children’s online activities, change settings and turn features on/off anytime, anywhere.

By Effendy Ibrahim, Internet Safety Advocate & Director, Consumer Business, Asia, Symantec.

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