I've been asked, what steps should I take to protect my kids when they are on the Internet. You read on the news about predators who use the Internet to take advantage of kids. It's true. We've all seen those NBC shows where they catch predators over and over again.
The Internet gives predators an anonymity where they can build trust and intimacy very quickly. It is natural for teens to use peer support in online chat rooms to seek help with their problems. The lowest of the low pedophile know this and goes to these areas online to look for their victims. They can claim to be anyone they want to because of this anonymity that the Internet gives them.
I've heard that 1 in 5 children who use chat rooms online have been approached by pedophiles over the Internet. I've mentioned in earlier posts to avoid pornography all together for security reasons. There is one estimate that puts 20% of all Internet porn involves kids. Kids have this trust that really can put them in danger if they agree to meet someone who they met online. Adding to the nervousness of parents is that only 1 in 10 teens would ask their parents' permission to actually go meet someone who they met online.
Here is a list of key things that parents can to to protect their children.
The most important thing I can tell parents is have the computer that kids will use in an open setting where you can monitor their online use. NEVER ALLOW A CHILD TO HAVE A PC IN THEIR ROOM WHICH GIVES THE CHILD A SENSE OF PRIVACY.
- Talk to your kids and stress to them how to stay safe online. Have a written plan for them to read.
- Actually teach your kids how to use the Internet. Not only for your kids safety, which is most important, kids are one of the biggest computer security risks. Due to their trusting nature, they will most likely click on links that host malicious software that can be installed on your computer.
- Many ISP (Internet Service Provider like Comcast, Cox, etc.) provide parents with tools to control and monitor kids Internet use. If not, there are commercial software applications that can monitor and filter where kids can go online.
- Tell kids about the benefits of the Internet as well as the dangerous that lurk in the world wide web.
- Many kids are members of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. As a parent, you may want to sign up for your own account and monitor what they post on their own site. Kids tend to put TOO much information online that aides online predators in finding their victims. Also, what kids post today can haunt them later when they are looking for a job. More and more, companies do research on the Internet when deciding to hire an individual or not.
- Supervise and monitor your kids online and assist them. If problems arise, report them to the appropriate authority.
- For younger children, you find and bookmark web sites that you deem appropriate. Closely monitor younger kids.
- Have your anti-virus and anti-spware software up to date with the current signatures and run them often.
Create an online contract for teens that you can both agree to. There are many great sites online that talk about your children's safety, so definitely look at more. There are examples of contracts that I've seen that you can copy or use as a guide to create your own unique contract.
Knowledge is power. Ignorance will put you and your family in danger. Read read read. Take care out there and we'll talk again soon.