Internet Safety Begins at Home

The Internet has revolutionized the way we think about research, work, education, entertainment and even how we talk to each other. E-mail and instant messaging put us in immediate contact with people across town or continents away.

But these advantages also come with risks. Because nearly anyone can put anything on the Internet it can be difficult to determine how much of this information is reliable, how much information we are sharing about ourselves and — sometimes — who we are really talking to and their motives.

Perhaps most at risk are the children, who tend to be both curious and trusting. Learning the best way to use the Internet safely and with reliable results begins at home with your family and can continue at the Coeur d’Alene Public Library.

At Home and Away

The Internet is a worldwide network of computers linked by telephone lines, television cables, satellites and wireless communication systems. Your home computer is linked to the network by a service provider.

Before you invite the world into your home via the Internet it’s a good idea to establish what the rules will be in your family:

  • Talk to your children about what is acceptable computer use and the kind of websites they may visit on the Internet. This might involve frank talk about pornography, exploitation and violence. Explain that some adults may pretend to be someone they aren’t to lure children into dangerous situations or to gain access to personal and family information.
  • Discuss how much computer time is allowed and when the computer may be used.
  • You may want to place your computer in an area where the screen is visible from anywhere in the room.
  • Nearly all service providers include parental controls, spam blocking and other features intended to limit intrusions on your privacy. You can also purchase software that allows you to filter the websites your children can access. Be aware, however, that these cannot guarantee your children — or you — will never see anything you may consider offensive. Also, depending on how technically savvy your children are, they may be able to find ways around the filter. Giving your child good decision-making skills may ultimately be the best filter.
  • If your child is likely to use a computer at another family’s home, communicate your rules and expectations to the adults there.
  • Make sure you are aware what the acceptable use policy is for your child’s school.
  • Different libraries have different policies on providing filtered and unfiltered Internet computers. Library personnel cannot monitor patron use. Parents and guardians need to enforce their family rules for their own children.
  • If your child uses a laptop computer remember there are numerous wireless access points in most communities where you will not be able to monitor his or her use.

It’s Not Always Good to Share

Children are inherently trusting and it’s not always easy for them to understand that people they encounter on the Internet may have ulterior motives. Your family’s Internet rules need to make it clear that sharing personal information is not a good idea.

A few suggestions for children:

  • Visit only chatrooms and use only e-mail and instant message services approved by your parents.
  • Never give out your full name, address, telephone number or e-mail address to anyone your parents have not approved.
  • Don’t share your daily schedule with a stranger or arrange to meet someone without telling your parents.
  • Don’t visit sites that require you to pay for access. Don’t give your parents’ or your credit card information to anyone not OK’d by your parents.
  • Don’t post your photo without permission or open photos in attachments coming from strangers.
  • Don’t respond to or open messages from people you don’t know.
  • If you encounter a photo or other material that is unacceptable in your family, shut down the site immediately and tell a trusted adult what you encountered.
  • If you accidentally access something that is frightening or confusing, it is not your fault!

Find the Right Stuff on the Net

With all the information available on the Internet it can be hard to decide what is reliable. Some sites can be identified as accurate based on the source — sites sponsored by recognizable reference publishers, for example.

The Coeur d’Alene Public Library — and other libraries in Idaho — have been provided subscriptions to trusted reference sources that can be used from your home computer or by visiting the library. This service is funded by the Idaho Commission for Libraries. These include national magazines, newspapers, virtual reference materials and even automotive repair manuals.

Different sources of information have been designed within these databases for specific age groups.

The library’s reference staff can show you how to use these resources — and other traditional reference materials at the library — for homework and other purposes. Call 208/769-2315 or visit the library, 702 E Front Ave., to obtain the necessary user name and/or password to access these resources from home through the library website:

David Townsend is the Library Communications Coordinator for the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Brochures, on which this column was based, are available at the library.

Additional Internet Safety Resources can be found at