Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 28, 2011. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Consider computer safety for students on the Internet
Many students still use books and encyclopedias to prepare for science fairs, research projects and book reports, but more and more students are turning to the Internet.
With the increased student use of the Internet comes a greater risk of children stumbling on harmful websites containing viruses, malware or explicit images. When allowing children to use the Internet for research or recreation, parents can take some safety steps.
One of the most basic steps is to place the computer in a public space in the house where the monitor is visible to others. Do not let children have private Internet connections in their rooms, and be careful of wireless access at both your home and your neighbor’s home. If your neighbor has an unsecured wireless network, your child could obtain Internet access through that network.
Additionally, there are several specific settings that can be adjusted in Internet Explorer to prevent unwanted content. In Internet Explorer, go to Tools and left-click on Internet Options. Next, select Security and then left-click Trusted Sites so that it is highlighted in blue. Left-click the Sites button. In the “add this website to the zone” field, type in the name of the trusted website and left-click Add and then Close. Repeat for every trusted website.
Other websites may be inappropriate for school projects because they contain unreliable or inaccurate information. It is often hard, especially for children, to tell what is true and what is false on a website. Many people believe if it’s on the Internet, it must be true.
Several examples of Internet search engines geared specifically toward children include http://kids.yahoo.com, http://www.kidrex.org or http://kidsclick.org. Both Yahoo and KidRex (powered by Google) use filters to screen out unwanted information. KidsClick is a collection of resources assembled by librarians to help students complete schoolwork.
You also can adjust computer settings to prevent children from accessing certain sites. In Internet Explorer, go to Tools, and left-click on Internet Options. Next, select Security. In the window, left-click on Restricted Sites so that it is highlighted in blue, and then left-click the Sites button. In the “add this website to the zone” field, type in the name of the restricted website. Left-click Add and then Close. Repeat for every website you want to restrict.
Parents can create a password that must be entered by the parent each time a child wants to view a website. To do this, go to Tools and left-click on Internet Options. Left-click the Content tab and then left-click the Enable button under the Content Advisor heading. Left-click the General tab, and then left-click the Create Password button. Enter a password and then enter the password again to confirm.
Once you left-click Save, you will not be able to access the Internet without this password, so be sure you can remember the password. Left-click OK, and in the “password successfully created” window, left-click OK again. In the Content Advisor window, left-click Apply and OK. You will be warned that the content advisor has been enabled. Left-click OK.
When your child enters a website address, the Content Advisor will appear and prompt you to enter the password. At this time you can select to always allow access to this site, specific page or just this time. Enter the password and left-click OK.
Purchasing an Internet filter is also an option. While there are free Internet filters available, parents should look for filters that can manage instant messenger communications as well as social media (like Facebook). Most cyber-bullying cases start on instant message or social media sites. Additionally, child predators are increasingly adept at using social media to target children.
A good Internet filter will not only prevent your child from accessing inappropriate material but also provide a detailed log of the computer’s activity. This log is then e-mailed to you so that you have a record of the computer’s activities. This is helpful in establishing patterns of behavior in cyber-bullying incidents or tracking the advances of a predator.
A child’s world used to include the backyard and the playground at recess, both usually with fences around them. Now, their playground is the world, accessible by only a few clicks of the mouse. Establishing online boundaries for your child is imperative, especially considering the Internet does not have any.