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Tips to keep your child safe on the internet

HARTFORD — A new generation is about to wade into the waters of the internet, and Connecticut Better Business Bureau recommends parents be an integral part of teaching their children how to make the most of the internet and avoid its potential problems.

The threats children face are many of the same ones as adults, such as fake websites, viruses, collection of personal information and other scams. Keeping children safe online also involves a different type of danger: bullying.

“It is a sad fact that young children and older students can be harassed, threatened and embarrassed by their peers,” said Connecticut Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz. “Most bullying occurs through social media and email, sometimes with devastating consequences. Parents can help nip such problems in the bud by keeping the lines of communication open.”

There are a number of ways parents can help protect their children online, including using parental controls with filters that can block certain sites and content. There is also software that can reveal what websites your children are visiting.

Parental oversight of young children on the internet goes beyond laptops, PCs and Macs. Smart phones and tablets are also computers and present the same risks. If it’s a smart device, you can restrict the hours that children can use it.

Another area that requires parental instruction and oversight is social media. Many children have social media profiles, and there may be school or other groups with social media pages. Children should be taught that people who want to be their friend or follow them online may not be who they seem to be, and may present a danger.

Children may lack the maturity and judgement to know how to protect themselves from stalkers, and how to deal with pop-up ads with phony coupons, friend requests and games.

Connecticut BBB offers these tips to help keep your child safe as he or she begins to explore the internet:

Monitor their activities – Keep computers within your view when your child is in the learning stages, and watch over them until you are comfortable with their internet skills.

Create their accounts – This can help you control the safety of your children’s activities, whether they are creating social media profiles or signing up for any service, email, game or website.

Check privacy settings – When your child is ready for social media make sure that only friends can see their profiles, and explain the risks of engaging with people they don’t know.

Discuss the limits of sharing – That includes anything that identifies the child, the family, the school, telephone numbers, address, birthdays and family photos.

Keep the lines of communication open – You will want to know if anyone is trolling, pestering or bullying your child to enable you to intervene as quickly as possible.