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Consumer Watch: Five ways to keep kids safe online

(KOKH/FILE)

The internet helps many kids with school, but unsupervised use can put children face to face with dangers they might not recognize.

Here are the five ways you can make sure your child is safe online right now.

1. Talk to your kids, and make it clear that the internet use is a privilege. Social media expert Patrick Allmond says this means parents have to set clear expectations.

“I would sit down with my son or daughter, and I would make a specific list of websites that they are allowed to visit,” says Allmond, owner of Focus Marketing.

2. Outline approved sites and make them easy to access. You can do that by keeping those sites under bookmarks. Anything outside of that requires parent permission.

3. Tell kids about clear warnings of suspicious behavior. Kids 13 and older could be starting to use social media. Kids may not realize people can lie on the web to harm them. Give clear examples of what's not ok.

“If anyone says let's keep our friendship a secret, let's have a secret friendship, something like that-- that is something that should be brought to mom and dad's attention right away,” says Allmond.

4. Remind kids that kindness is key. Bullying is not ok, but the behavior remains rampant in school and online. Parents should remind kids of the importance of considering other's feelings on the web.

“I think that we as human beings, especially in that pre-teen area and that teen area, we get a lot bolder behind the keyboard, and we are willing to say things that we would not say to someone's face, in person,” says Allmond.

5. Conduct regular check-ups. Though teens often crave privacy, Allmond says you should be checking in on what your kids are doing online. Regular and even surprise checks can be appropriate.

“I consider it my obligation to keep an eye on what my kid is doing, whether it is search history, whether it's going through their chats, whether it is going through their friend requests,” says Allmond.

If you find a problem address it, and follow through with time away from the internet.

Don't forget that kids use more than standard computers. Smartphone should also be regularly checked.

This means educating yourself about the apps your kids are using. Remember, most social media sites are not meant to be used by children younger than 13 years old. If you are allowing your teen to use social media, then consider helping set up the account. That way you can ensure it's a private account.

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