The Internet can be a wonderful place. It can also be a dangerous place, especially for kids. Cyber predators are out there, just looking for their prey. It is important to teach kids Internet Safety.
The Basic Internet Safety Rules
Teaching children basic safety rules will help when they are online. They must be sure to never give out any personal information while online. This includes addresses, phone numbers, daily routines, any credit card information, social security numbers, and birthday dates.
All of these things can be used to get more information about members of the family and if it falls into the hands of the wrong person, this information can be dangerous.
Sexually Harassing Girls Online
Kids often don’t think there is any harm in cyberspace because it’s “not real.” But they are wrong! It is very real. There are violent and sexually explicit images as well as hate material online, available for anyone with access to the Internet.
These images can be extremely disturbing to kids, as well as adults, and have been known to cause psychological damage to many kids. In a study done in February 2002 by the Girl Scout Research Institute 30 percent of the teenage girls in the study said they have been sexually harassed in a chat room, and only 7 percent of those reported the incident to their parents.
According to the March 2007 Cox Communications Teen Internet Safety Survey Wave II, “An alarming percentage of girls aged 13 to 17 report posting personal information online: their real age (72%), a fake age (23%), photos or videos of themselves (70%), photos or videos of friends (61%), city they live in (55%), name of school (48%), and cell phone number (7%).
The Internet Offers Anonymity for those who Prey
It is important to remind children that people are not always what they seem to be. This is especially true online, where the person can take on any personality, name, and attributes and no one is the wiser. There is no lie detector connected to the Internet. There is no way of knowing the person online is actually who he says he is. Now more than ever, it is important to practice safe computing skills.
The Internet has been a curse as well as a blessing. It is a great place for education, entertainment, and communication, if used the right way. Kids need to be aware of the dangers and taught how to use the Internet wisely and safely.
Eight Tips to Keep Kids Safe Online
Most parents are aware that the internet presents new hazards for today’s kids. The anonymity and ease of accessibility means that anyone can post anything online, or pretend to be anyone, and children won’t always have the discretion to see through online predators and other dangers. The following eight tips can help worried parents ensure the safety of their kids while they’re browsing the net.
- Create a Set of Family Rules About the Internet
You can paste a list of rules to the wall or table next to the computer to remind children to never share personal information, be wary of strangers, protect their passwords, and more. It’s a good idea to hammer out a set of safe practices together before you get internet access, so they become a habit from the start.
- Limit Internet Time
Homework and school research is one thing, but it’s been shown that children who spend more than an hour and a half of free time online daily are more at risk of coming in contact with an online predator.
- Keep the Computer in Shared Living Space
The living room or family room is an ideal place for a computer that can access the net. Children with internet access in their bedrooms are more likely to use chat programs and internet forums inappropriately.
- Talk to Your Child About School, Friends, and the Net
If your child knows that they can talk to you about the little and big things in their life, he or she will be more likely to confide in you if anything strange happens to them on the net. Good communication can make all the difference between a child who feels safe talking to adults at home and one who hares off to meet with a stranger without telling you.
- Find Your Child a Hobby He or She Enjoys
Children who are busy and have interests of their own are less likely to wander into chat forums (or other predator haunts) looking for something to do.
- Get Your Child Involved in Sports, Extra-Curriculars, and Peer Groups
Children who have more friends and social activities are less likely to be lured by a stranger online who pretends to be their “best friend” or to be in love with them. Lonely children are far more vulnerable.
- Consider Installing Child Protection Software on Your Computer or Activating Browser Security Settings
Most internet browsers, like Explorer, Netscape or Firefox, have security settings that can prevent your child from accessing adult websites. Other programs track every keystroke your child makes. These programs, however, aren’t fool-proof! If you choose to use one of these programs, you should talk to your child about it and consider that he or she may be computer-savvy enough to get around it.
- Don’t Assume That Your Child is Automatically Safe
The easiest targets for child predators online are young teens who are either sheltered and naïve, or curious adventure-seekers – but that doesn’t mean that these are the only victims. Boys are targeted by online predators as often as girls, so be careful to teach all of your kids guidelines for internet use to protect them and put your mind at rest.
Internet safety is parents’ concern, and should be instilled from the start. Take time to work out a safety plan with your kids and check in on them periodically to make sure they are keeping safe and vigilant on the web.