Probably the one thing parents worry about most when it comes to their children and the Internet is their child falling victim to an online sex predator.
There are many horror stories out there about sex predators who found their victims online, so such concern is understandable. Worse, it may be warranted.
Because the Internet allows anyone to be anonymous, allows predators to track down victims with the seemingly most innocent of information, and because children don’t have the experience or judgment to be wary of what are actually strangers, it’s up to parents to give them the tools they need to protect themselves, even if parents also choose to use parental controls or Internet filtering software.
Sure, you could lock your child in her room and never let her on a computer, but even that might not protect her. After all, the Internet can be accessed from practically anywhere, and you don’t even need a computer to do it.
The best way to monitor your kids online is to actually sit with them when they’re online. If you start when they’re young and explain the ins-and-outs of the Internet to them, including the dangers, you may not have to monitor them as they become older because they have chosen to be trustworthy.
Indeed, if you treat your kids as though you trust them, they will more often than not try to be trustworthy so as not to let you down. This is why it’s also a good idea to set up the rules with them, even negotiating on occasion. Yes, you’re their parent so you can set up any rules you want, but don’t you want your kids obeying them? Also be willing to revise the rules as they get older. A 12 year old simply doesn’t need the same rules as a 6 year old.
Since sitting with your kids all the time when they’re online is probably not going to happen, keep the computer hooked to the Internet in a public area where people are around and can see what they’re doing. It’s a lot harder to hide things from your parents and siblings when they’re always around. Kids may argue that they “need” to be able to access the Internet from their bedroom from school, but they don’t. They can save anything they need to a flash drive and take it to the computer in their bedroom.
There is no excuse for inappropriate online conduct. Yes, surfers may come across websites that have what they consider inappropriate content, but that’s not the same thing as inappropriate conduct.
Inappropriate online conduct includes such things as bullying and stalking as well as sex predators and child pornography.
The first thing to always keep in mind is that, if you think your child is in imminent danger, call 911 immediately. Your child’s safety comes first. Don’t assume the problem will clear up by itself. Take prompt action.
Sexual predators and child molesters need to be reported immediately to the police even if you don’t feel your child is in immediate danger. Should your child want to meet an “online friend,” just say no.
Other inappropriate online conduct, while perhaps not an emergency, can be quite serious and should also be reported promptly. Online bullying and harassment, for example, can have serious consequences, particularly with emotionally vulnerable teens.
Accessing Internet porn accidentally isn’t particularly easy anymore, so if your kid tells you he just stumbled across a porn site, you might want to take that with a grain of salt. On the other hand, you shouldn’t get too upset, either, because such curiosity is normal.
Indeed, discovering that your kid or teen has been checking out porn sites is a good time to sit down with them and explain that porn sites are demeaning to women and don’t provide a realistic view of sex.
The time to be concerned is if your teen begins spending an inordinate amount of time on porn sites. After all, Internet porn addiction can be a real problem and seriously affect your child’s healthy development.
Generally speaking, porn sites are either found by actively searching for it or by going to semi-shady sites that use porn links to help make money. For example, should your kid decide to download a free (but illegal) copy of a computer game by going to a warez site, there’s a good chance that at least some of the links, ads, and banners will go to porn sites.
The Internet can be a dangerous place for your children if they aren’t prepared. Most kids don’t have the experience or judgment to recognize online danger, leaving them vulnerable to both accidental and deliberate assaults on their innocence and worse.
Probably the most important thing you can teach your child about online safety is to never reveal personal information. Not their name, address or phone number.
Not their school, their team, their activities. Nothing that could be used to identify your child…because predators can be very creative.
Keeping personal information private not only means from queries from individuals, but also on forms such as surveys and signup forms. Indeed, your child shouldn’t sign up for anything online without your knowledge and permission.
Children should also understand they must not arrange to meet or talk to any online friend in person, no matter how well they think they “know” them. Certainly not all friends made over the Internet are bad people. Not even close. But parental involvement when meeting strangers is something your child should not just expect, but encourage.
Loving parents always hope that they have given their children enough love, attention, and self-confidence that their children will be safe from inappropriate Internet relationships.
Sometimes children simply become addicted to the Internet itself, while not being in an inappropriate relationship. While this is bad enough, having your child vulnerable to predators is much, much worse.
Here are some of the signs to be aware of. They don’t necessarily mean your child is in an inappropriate Internet relationship, but they are warning signs nonetheless. Read more…
It’s likely that you, as a parent, have never even heard of P2P networking. On the other hand, you probably have P2P file sharing software on your computer, programs such as Kazaa, Morpheus or BitTorrent.
P2P (or Peer to Peer) software is designed to share files between computers and is most commonly used to download and share songs. In and of itself, it’s harmless. However, there definitely are concerns you, as a parent, should be aware of.
One is simply the legality of the sharing that’s being done. For example, there have been many lawsuits filed against individuals because of illegal downloads of copyrighted material, particularly music and movies. Even if your child is a minor doesn’t mean that you, as their parent, are not legally vulnerable.
There have been thousands of lawsuits and expensive settlements, so make sure you have set strong guidelines with your children about what can and cannot be downloaded.
Message boards can be fun sites used to discuss popular topics such as music or movies as well as, say, talk about homework assignments. And, yes, they can also be misused by predators, cyberbullies, and the like.
However, there’s no reason that Internet message boards can’t be safe for your child if you have taken the time to explain the do’s and don’t of Internet safety and established rules with your child.
Ground rules for allowing your child to use a message board should include
Should you feel you need to go further to protect your child from the potential problems they might face on Internet message boards, you can always use parental controls or Internet filtering software. However, you should always start with trusting your child first, rather than assuming they’re going to do something wrong. Taking the time to discuss potential problems and setting ground rules together will often be the most effective way to protect your child online, whether it be on message boards or simply surfing the Internet.
MySpace is a social networking site…meaning it’s an Internet site where people meet to chat, socialize and share information online. Other popular social networking sites are Facebook, YouTube, and Xanga.
Someone new to MySpace.com would start by creating their screen name and personal page where they get to describe their various likes and dislikes, such as favorite TV shows or music. Members can upload photos, music and the like as well as give information about themselves, such as their age and sex.
They can tell their friends about their MySpace page, plus allow strangers to sign up as new “friends.” They can chat with each other. They can post and respond to surveys. And they can become victims.
It’s the sharing of information with strangers that can lead to trouble, particularly since it’s hard for teens to understand that someone they chat with all the time online is still a stranger, not a someone they know, unless they knew the person previously in the real world.
Yes, chat rooms can be dangerous for your children. But so can walking across the street. The best thing you, as a parent, can do is to teach your child the do’s and don’ts of Internet safety, then do your best to enforce the rules.
The first and foremost thing your children need to understand is to not, under any circumstances, reveal personal information. Never mind telling them not to provide their real name, address or phone number.
Make it clear that predators can find them even if all they did was reveal their school or their friends’ names. Predators have many tricks to make children feel comfortable with them and to get personally identifiable information from them.
Preferably your children should only use chat rooms that have moderators…in other words, people whose job it is to pay attention to chat and step in if things start getting out of hand or inappropriate. Make sure, however, that the person in contact with your child is actually a moderator. You can do this by going to the chat website itself and checking out the list of moderators. You can also use chat room monitoring software to watch what your kids are doing and who they are communicating with.