Internet Safety for Children
Many people today use the Internet to do a variety of activities. These activities include electronic mail, chat rooms, instant messages, post and read messages in news groups, play games, and “surf the Web.” Children are no exception to this. You can now access the Internet almost anywhere — cellular phones, a friend’s house, school, libraries, hotel/motels, and other places. There are no censors for the Internet. It is up to the child and parents to make sure that they take safety precautions while accessing the Internet.
What are the risks?
- Physical Molestation
A child might provide information or arrange an encounter that could risk his or her safety or the safety of other family members. In some cases child molesters have used chat areas, e-mail, and instant messages to gain a child’s confidence and then arrange a face-to-face meeting.
- Harassment and Bullying
A child might encounter messages via chat, e-mail, or their cellular telephones that are belligerent, demeaning, or harassing. Bullies, typically other young people, often use the Internet to bother their victims.
- Viruses and Hackers
- Legal and Financial
A child could download a file containing a virus that could damage the computer or increase the risk of a hacker gaining remote access to the computer, thereby jeopardizing the family’s privacy, and perhaps jeopardizing the family’s safety.
A child could do something that has negative legal or financial consequences such as giving out a parent’s credit-card number.
How to Reduce the Risks
By taking responsibility for your children’s online computer use, parents can greatly minimize any potential risks of being online. Make it a family rule to:
- Never give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number.
- Get to know the Internet and any services your child uses.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet on the Internet.
- Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. If someone sends you or your children messages or images that are filthy, indecent, lewd, or obscene with the intent to abuse, annoy, harass, or threaten you, immediately report this to your local law enforcement agency.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem.
- Remember that everything you read online may not be true.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children.
- Check out blocking, filtering, and ratings applications. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child’s bedroom.