4 Dangers of the Internet
Protect your kids from cyberbullying and exposure to sexual predators with these Internet safety tips from the experts.
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
- If children are harassed or bullied through instant messaging, help them
use the "block" or "ban" feature to prevent the bully from contacting
- 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
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.
"In terms of predators, that's obviously a hot spot where they can go to
research victims," Shehan says. "They need to meet these kids, groom these
children and become friends."
Predators may take on fake identities and feign interest in a child's
favorite bands, TV shows, video games or hobbies. "They come across to the
children as their new best friend. They're going to have the same likes and
dislikes," Shehan says. "It's quite crafty what these child predators will go
Internet Safety Tips
- Ask your children if they use a social networking site. Look at the site
together or search for it yourself online. Social networking sites often have
age limits. MySpace prohibits kids under 14 - but doesn't verify kids' ages, so
anyone can use it. If you want to delete a site, work with your child to cancel
the account, or contact the social networking site directly.
- Tell your kids not to post a full name, address, phone number, school name
and other personal information that could help a stranger to find them. Remind
them that photos - like your child in a team sweatshirt - can give away clues
to where they live. Ask them not to send photos to people they meet
- Learn about privacy settings that allow kids to choose who can view their
profiles. Explain that strangers who approach them online aren't always who
they say they are - and that it's dangerous to meet them in real life. Tell
them to "instant message" only with family or friends they already know
- When it comes to Internet safety, there's no substitute for parental
supervision. Put your computer in a common area of your home, not a child's
bedroom, so you can keep an eye on online activities. Go to websites that
explain the short-hand kids use in instant messaging, like "POS"
("parent over shoulder") or "LMIRL" ("let's meet in real life"), so you know
what's going on.
- Ask your kids to report any online sexual solicitation to you or another
trusted adult right away. Shehan asks adults to report the event to the
CyberTipline (800-843-5678), where staff will contact law enforcement agencies
to investigate. He also advises parents to call their local police and save all
offensive emails as evidence.