Keeping Children Safe on the Internet

On Friday I've spoken at length with a friend of mine who worries as her 10 years old daughter is starting to explore the wonderful, but dangerous world of the Internet. Since I have a 10 years old daughter also myself my friend was interested to learn what restrictions and safe guards (if any) I put in place for my daughter given that I know substantially more about the Internet than a typical parent. I comforted my friend that just by understanding that Internet could be potentially a very dangerous place puts her among just a few percent of parents who actually care about the issue. Unfortunately, a large majority of parents have absolutely no clue what's happening online and they let their sons and daughters access the Internet without any adult supervision. These parents have no idea that at the moment one of the most dangerous places for children to be is in privacy of their own rooms given how many ways there exists nowadays to connect to the Internet and how intriguing the Internet feels to the young people.

The three things I worry the most when my daughter is using Internet services are her posting photos or videos, her chatting with strangers, and gruesome web sites. Posting photos or videos online is dangerous for obvious reasons and I've instructed my daughter not to shoot any photo of herself that she wouldn't like her schoolmates to see even if she doesn't intend to upload the photos online. What happened to Jennifer Lawrence happens all the time when children forget their phones and their schoolmates start browsing their photos, or some boy brags with trophies to his friends.

Chatting with strangers is again dangerous for obvious reasons since you cannot know who the person on the other side really is unless you know the person very well also in physical world. Therefore we strictly forbade our daughter to chat with anybody who's not vetted either by Tina or me. Additionally, we instructed our daughter to notify us immediately if she's contacted by anybody who's not on a list of vetted contacts. For similar reasons we don't allow our daughter to become Facebook user, but since Facebook doesn't allow users below 13 years old to sign in, that's quite easy to enforce.

Finally, gruesome web sites are another clear danger of the Internet. Beheadings, extreme sexual practices, and other graphical violence is hard to stomach even for an adult much less so for a ten years old girl. Eventually my daughter will learn about all aspects of human nature, but I'd prefer that to happen gradually over the years and I'd like her to learn about more innocent things first before she digs deeper in abysses human psyche. To prevent my daughter from encountering web sites with inappropriate content we let her access only Google, YouTube, and Wikipedia, which all have good filters for inappropriate content, while we try to discourage her to freely surf the web.