4 Dangers of the Internet
Protect your kids from cyberbullying and exposure to sexual predators with these Internet safety tips from the experts.
Mary Ellen Handy had a painful crash course in the dangers of the Internet.
The trouble started in her freshman year of high school after a dispute over a
boy's affections. Once she began dating him, a jealous girl flooded her
computer with a stream of nasty messages.
"She'd say, 'I hate you; leave the school,' and she called me every name in
the book," says Handy, now an 18-year-old senior in New Jersey. With the speed
and ease of the Internet, her classmate soon recruited 20 others to bully
Handy online. "It was like a ripple effect," she says. As the ordeal dragged on
for months, she dreaded going to school, felt physically ill and saw her grades
No doubt, the Internet can be an extremely useful tool for young people. But
instant messaging, chat rooms, emails and social networking sites can also
bring trouble - from cyberbullying to more serious Internet dangers, including
exposure to sexual predators.
How savvy are you about keeping your child or teenager safe online? Follow
these tips to protect your kids from the 4 major dangers of the Internet.
Internet Danger #1: Cyberbullying
On the Internet, cyberbullying takes various forms, says Netsmartz411.org,
an online resource that educates parents about Internet safety. Cyberbullying
includes sending hateful messages or even death threats to children, spreading
lies about them online, making nasty comments on their social networking
profiles, or creating a website to bash their looks or reputation.
Cyberbullying differs from schoolyard bullying, Handy says. Teachers can't
intervene on the Internet. "When it happens online, there's no one to filter
it," she says. And cyberbullies don't witness their victims' reactions, the way
they might if they insulted others to their faces. "They don't see you crying,"
Handy says, which may make it easier for them to continue.
Some cyberbullies pose as their victims and send out harassing messages to
others. Recently, cyberbullies have also begun posting humiliating videos of
other kids they dislike, says Parry Aftab, a cyberspace security and privacy
lawyer who also serves as executive director of WiredSafety.org, one of the
largest Internet safety education groups in the world.
In the age of YouTube, a website that hosts videos shot by users, "Kids are
looking for their 15 megabytes of fame," Aftab says. "They do it to show that
they're big enough, popular enough, cool enough to get away with it."
Often, kids don't tell parents they're being cyberbullied; they're afraid
their parents will overreact or yank Internet privileges, Aftab adds. Her
advice? If your son or daughter tells you, stay calm. If it's a one-time thing,
try to ignore the bully and block future contact, she says. But if the
cyberbullying involves any physical threat, you may need to call the