Following are tips from the National Assn. of School Psychologists on protecting your kids online, even if your own online skills lag behind theirs.
* Keep computers in easily viewable places, such as the family room or kitchen.
* Talk regularly with your children about the online activities in which they are involved and Internet etiquette in general. Children should know the rule that many adults have learned from painful experience: Do not say online what you would not say in person.
* Encourage children to be self-protective. Remind them that anything they say on the Internet or in phone text messages can be shared with others and misused. Ask them to consider if they want what they are saying and doing broadly disseminated. If not, they probably should not say or post it.
* Be specific about the risks of cyber-bullying and their need to tell you if something that bothers them occurs.
* Respect for adolescents’ privacy is important. But tell children that you may review their online communications if you have reason for concern.
* Set clear expectations for responsible online behavior and phone use and consequences for violating those expectations.
* Consider establishing a parent-child Internet use contract.
* Consider installing parental-control filtering software or tracking programs but do not rely solely on these tools.
* Be aware of warning signs that might indicate your son or daughter is being bullied, such as reluctance to use the computer, a change in the child’s behavior and mood, or reluctance to go to school.
* Document the bullying.
* Be equally alert to the possibility that your child could be bullying others online, even if unintentionally.
* Understand current local laws and your school policies. Work with your school to develop policies if they don’t exist.
* If you have concerns, contact your child’s school to enlist the help of the school psychologist, school counselor, principal or resource officer.
* File a complaint with the website, Internet service provider or cellphone company if you learn of problematic behavior.
* Contact police if the cyber-bullying includes threats.
The Congressionally mandated CyberTipline is a reporting mechanism for cases of child sexual exploitation including child pornography, online enticement of children for sex acts, molestation of children outside the family, sex tourism of children, child victims of prostitution, and unsolicited obscene material sent to a child. Reports may be made 24-hours per day, 7 days per week online at http://www.cybertipline.com or by calling 1-800-843-5678.