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Safety on the Internet

 
 
Millions of people are now using the internet to exchange E-mail, to surf the worldwide web, and to participate in news groups and chat groups. Children can also benefit from the vast store of information that can be found on the internet, but they can also be targets of crime and exploitation. Children need on-line parental supervision and guidance, to be sure that their experiences are positive and productive.
 
Some of the risks children and teenagers can encounter on-line include:
 
  • Exposure to inappropriate material which is sexual, violent, or hateful, as well as material which may encourage dangerous or illegal activities
  • Encountering on-line predators who may try to set up a face-to-face meeting. In the past, pedophiles have used E-mail, bulletin boards, or chat groups to befriend a child, and then tried to arrange an encounter
  • Harassment from E-mail which is obscene or threatening
  • Legal or financial risks in instances when a child may give out a parentís credit card number, or other personal and financial information

 

Parents can reduce the risks their children may face on-line by keeping an open line of communication. Sit down with your children and set some ground rules. Be open, supportive, and as non-confrontational as possible. Children should know that they can feel free to confide in their parents about disturbing people or material they might come across on-line.
 
Some helpful rules for children and teenagers who go on-line include:
 
  • Never give out personal information, such as name, home address, telephone number, or name of school, without parental permission
  • Become familiar with the internet and any on-line services your children use Spend some time with your children and have them show you what they do while theyíre on-line. In this way, you can become familiar with all the things that can be done on-line, and you can try recommending fun and educational sites to your children
  • Never allow children to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet on-line without parental permission. If you approve of such a meeting, make it in a public place, and be sure to accompany your child
  • Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter messages or bulletin board items which are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or threatening. If you or your child receives a message which is harassing or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your Internet Service Provider and ask for their help. Tell your children not to click on any links that are sent via E-mail from people they donít know. These links often lead to sexually-explicit, or inappropriate web sites
  • Try to realize that people on-line may not be who they seem to be. Because you canít see an on-line person, it is easy for misrepresentations to be made. For example, a 45-year-old man may be posing as a 12-year-old girl
  • Do not respond to any offers which involve having someone visit your home, having a face-to-face meeting with someone, or sending money or credit information
  • Set reasonable rules for your childís computer use and discuss these rules with him/her. Too much time spent using on-line services or the internet may be a clue that there is a potential problem

 

Finally, blocking and filtering programs, as well as having web site ratings can be helpful in keeping children from wandering into areas of the internet which may be inappropriate. Some filtering programs are SurfWatch, NetNanny, and CyberPatrol. America On-line offers "Parental Controls" which can create a customized account for children, allowing them to receive E-mail only from people they know. Some search engines, such as Yahoo, Lycos, and Ask Jeeves, also provide alternatives for children, where a search will return only sites that have been rated as safe.
 
 

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