Now more than ever, parents must monitor their children’s internet activity – teens included.
Many kids are hooked on social networking sites such as MySpace, Twitter and Facebook, but most are unaware of the dangers associated with the Internet and these various Web sites.
Below are some important internet safety tips for kids and parents:
Rules – Start by creating a list of Web sites that your child is allowed/not allowed to visit. Set time limits on internet usage, especially if the child is home without adult supervision for any period of time.
Monitor your child’s messages by sharing an email account. Gmail makes this especially easy.
Networking Sites – Monitor usage on social networking sites. Don’t be afraid to be nosy. You should have your child’s password and you should check up on them frequently.
Supervise Usage – By keeping the computer in a common area such as the den or living room, children are forced to be more careful and parents can keep an occasional eye on usage.
You can bring up your "cookies" function, or internet history tab, to reveal the Web sites which have been recently visited by your children.
Lastly there is available software that will let you know exactly what your child has been up to online and that will also help to keep your child safe online.
School Internet Use – An increasing number of children get online at school. Talk to your child’s school, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision, to find out if their internet activity is monitored and to what extent.
Talk To Your Kids – Find out what Web sites your child visits and who they chat with online. It is important to keep an open line of communication so your child feels comfortable talking to you about what they see and do online.
Personal Information – Remind your child to never give out personal information such as a photo, their name, home address, and school name or telephone number in a chat room or on a message board (this also includes passwords).
Internet Safety Laws
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was created to help protect kids online. The law is designed to keep anyone from obtaining a child’s personal information without a parent knowing about it and agreeing to it first. Read up on it, understand it and explain it to your kids.
Passed in 1996, The Communications Decency Act (CDA) represents Congress’s first attempt to regulate children’s access to sexually explicit material on the Internet. The CDA made it illegal to put “indecent” content on the Internet where kids could find it.
More internet safety laws are outlined here.
Online Predators: Warning Signs
Warning signs that a child may be targeted by an online predator include long hours online, especially late at night, phone calls from unknown people, or unsolicited gifts and packages.
If your child turns off the computer when you enter the room, ask why and monitor their usage on the computer more closely. Reluctance when asked to discuss their online activities and withdrawal from family life are more signs to watch for.
Your local law enforcement agency or the FBI should be contacted if your child has received pornography via the Internet or has been the target of an online sex offender.
Obscene or threatening messages you or your kids get should be forwarded to your Internet service provider.
A new study by Crimes Against Children Research Center finds dramatic growth nationwide in arrests of online predators who solicited law enforcement investigators posing online as juveniles, the numbers nearly quintupling from 644 in 2000 to 3,100 in 2006.
Law enforcement officials estimate that as many as 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment (Dateline, 2006).
One in five teens in the U.S. has received at least one unwanted sexual solicitation via the internet. Solicitations are defined as requests to engage in sexual talk or activities.
A startling 75 percent of children are willing to share personal information online.
Nearly 40,000 verified registered sex offenders have MySpace profiles – and those are just the ones who have used their real names to register. #