Experts advise parental involvement with childrens’ Internet use

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2011

According to a story in this month’s edition of Consumer Reports, of the 20 million active Facebook users under the age of 18, 7.5 million were below the Facebook minimum age of 13.

Even more alarming was the fact that of that group, 5 million were under the age of 10. The large number of minors on the Internet puts them at a higher risk for cyber bullying or falling into the hands of predators, especially if they are on the web unmonitored.

Sgt. Neil Fetner, information technology officer for the Clanton Police Department, believes the key to keeping children safe online is parent involvement.

“The first thing a parent should do is if the child wants to have a Facebook, there should be a stipulation that the parent has to be a friend,” he said. “If a parent has access to the child’s Facebook account, they can monitor what they do.”

He also said that a child’s Internet privacy is not always a great idea.

“I wouldn’t allow [children] unsupervised access,” he said. “Put the computer in a common area where you can see what they’re doing.”

Fetner believes that the same is true about cyber bullying prevention.

“Bullying has gone to a more public venue [on the Internet]. It’s not so much one-on-one anymore. If parents can monitor things, they can head things off,” he said. “[Parents need to] know what kids are doing, who they’re talking to and what they’re talking about.”

Paula Stokes, counselor at Maplesville High, couldn’t agree more.

“[Facebook] can be a good thing, and it can be good for communication,” she said. “As long as it is monitored by parents.”

Stokes also said that a major factor in keeping minors safe on the Internet and especially Facebook is utilizing security settings.

“Some students don’t use the proper security measures,” she said. “Some kids put identifying information on there that makes it easier to locate them. [Proper] security settings would keep people from talking to [children] that should not.”

Stokes, like Fetner, stressed that parental involvement in a child’s Internet use is the key to keeping them safe.

“If a parent is going to let a child use [Facebook], they should monitor them,” she said. “If I have a child that lives under my roof, I am going to know their password and login information.”