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Internet Safety Information for Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers
From the Virginia Department of Education Guidelines and Resources for Internet Safety in Schools

The Internet is a valuable learning, communication, and entertainment provider. A child’s Internet use should be based on age and the family’s needs and values.

  • The Internet can help with research and homework.
  • The Internet can facilitate easy communications with family members and friends.
  • Although the Internet can be educational and entertaining, children should spend time offline.
  • Appropriate Internet activities for children should be age related. Teenage activities may not be appropriate for a young child. 

Parents must understand potential Internet dangers and prepare their children, just as they prepare them for going to the playground or crossing the street.

  • The Internet contains inappropriate information for children, such as pornography, hate literature, aggressive advertising, and violent images. 
  • Internet communication often is anonymous, especially in chat rooms or blogs. A sexual predator may pose as a friend to lure a child away from his or her family’s protection. Cyberbullies may target a child for harassment. 
  • Using e-mail or downloading files can lead to viruses or hidden spyware, which endanger a family’s privacy and computer. 
  • Information provided over the Internet—by children and adults—can be used for identity theft. 

Parents can provide the best protection for their children and help reinforce the principles learned in the classroom. Families should reach agreements about acceptable Internet activity and content.

  • Parents should read about and know how to respond to Internet risks. They can stay informed by signing up for a family Internet safety newsletter and working directly with their school divisions.
  • Parents should talk with their children about safe and appropriate Web sites and activities.
  • Children should be encouraged to report anything they feel uneasy about. If parents overreact, children will be less likely to confide in them the next time.
  • The family should create rules about what children can and cannot do while online. Posting the agreements near the computer will ensure children see them often. 

Monitoring is crucial. Parents should know where their children go online, how long they stay there, and the warning signs that something is wrong.

  • Parents should place computers in family areas as opposed to bedrooms; however, they need to realize that instant messaging devices, cell phones, and wireless computers may allow children to get online anywhere.
  • When young children first begin going online, parents should work closely with them and talk about Internet safety at an early age.
  • Parents should bookmark suitable sites and check back regularly to ensure that the content of those sites has not changed and that harmful sites have not been bookmarked.
  • Filters are helpful but not fail proof. Parents need to know about circumventor sites, which allow users to get around filtering software controls.
  • Parents should seek training to learn different methods of monitoring their children’s Internet use. They continually need to employ up-to-date techniques and software to track where their children go online.
  • Parents should be aware that some sites have age restrictions that children may ignore or not realize.
  • Parents should follow where their children go on the Internet just as they would watch them in a large public area. They need to check regularly the history and bookmarks or favorites on all computers in the house.
  • Parents should recognize the warning signs of when a child might be in trouble, doing something they should not be doing, or spending too much time on the Internet. They should know how to report a problem to their Internet Service Provider and local law enforcement officials.