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4 Dangers of the Internet

Protect your kids from cyberbullying and exposure to sexual predators with these Internet safety tips from the experts.
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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 police.

Internet Safety Tips

Some tips from Netsmartz.org for responding to cyberbullying:

  • To keep others from using their email and Internet accounts, kids should never share Internet passwords with anyone other than parents, experts say.
  • If children are harassed or bullied through instant messaging, help them use the "block" or "ban" feature to prevent the bully from contacting them.
  • If a child keeps getting harassing emails, delete that email account and set up a new one. Remind your child to give the new email address only to family and a few trusted friends.
  • Tell your child not to respond to rude or harassing emails, messages and postings. If the cyberbullying continues, call the police. Keep a record of the emails as proof.

Internet Danger #2: Sexual Predators

The online world opens the door for trusting young people to interact with virtual strangers - even people they'd normally cross the street to avoid in real life. About 1 in 7 kids have been sexually solicited online, says John Shehan, CyberTipline program manager for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia. The CyberTipline helps prevent sexual exploitation of children by reporting cases of kids enticed online to do sexual acts.

While sexual predators have targeted children in chat rooms, they migrate to wherever young people go online, Shehan says. More predators are now scouring social networking sites, such as MySpace and Xanga, because these sites have centralized so much information, Shehan says. A child's profile typically includes photos, personal interests and blogs.

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