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Keep Children Safe Online
There was once a time when you only had
to worry about children when they were outside or not
at home. Those times have changed. Strangers can now
enter your home, without a key or coming through a door.
How you may ask? These strangers enter your home using
a keyboard. These strangers can befriend your children
Social networking has become increasingly
popular and websites like Myspace have thrived with
adolescents and teens. While pedophiles may be the minority
on these sites, the threat of having a pedophile enter
your home, under the guise of being someone their not,
is just too big of a threat to ignore.
It may seem harmless enough, at first
glance. I mean, what do other web surfers really know
about your child? They might even live half a world
away. How could they possibly harm your child? Perhaps
you might even see the educational value of your child
interacting with individuals from other cultures and
understanding the global nature of today's world, but
Children online don't feel that these
"friends" are strangers. They "chat" with them daily.
These people, who parents consider strangers, are their
friends. They understand what the child is going through
and they listen in ways the parents never seem to. The
recent riveting testimony of a young boy that was drawn
into online pornography at the age of 13, should be
a wake up call to all parents. Computers and the Internet
can be far more dangerous than most parents ever imagine.
The likelihood of a child online will encounter strangers
is far higher than a stranger wandering into their backyard.
Parents warn their children about strangers
as they grow up, perhaps its time to redefine the term
stranger. Consider the following to protect your child,
adolescent, or teenager while online.
Do not allow your children to use a webcam unsupervised.
Children will often forget that the webcams are there
or even worse, what may seem harmless online flirting
might result in unwarranted or undesired attention from
an anonymous predator. Additionally, webcams have been
tied to home robberies where burglars viewed items of
interest through a webcam. A little online digging resulted
in the home address, and items were then stolen.
2. Common Area.
In spite of an adolescents or a teenagers need for privacy,
it is best to keep the computer in a family common area.
It might be helpful to explain to your child why it
is important that computers be out in the open. Children
should understand that using a computer is not a right,
is a privilege. Parents can and should supervise online
3. Personal Information.
Personal information is just that, personal, and should
not be shared by children. As easy as that is to say,
sometimes children are often confused as to what constitutes
personal information. Educating children about what
personal information is, is just as important as educating
them as telling them not to share. Children need to
understand that just because someone asks for personal
information doesn't mean you have to tell them.
What is personal information? Knowing
not to share your location, name, age, address, phone
number, town, password, and schedule might seem obvious
to children, but what many don't realize is that predators
will often piece together various bits of information.
A predator will aggregate data to determine a child's
location or true identity. Predators are able to use
IP tracking and the location of an online web provider
that you use might assist them in narrowing down a location.
Information related to sports events or scheduled concerts
will further allow a predator to ascertain a child's
location and personal information.
Provide adolescents and teenagers these
tips in determining what information is appropriate
or inappropriate to share. Tell them to ask themselves
how the predator can use the requested information?
Is it necessary for them to have that information? Why?
4. Crossing the Bounds.
It is easy to explain to a child that a stranger is
someone they don't know in the real world, but online
the definition becomes blurred. Is a friend of a friend
online, a stranger? If you have communicated X number
of times with someone, are they still a stranger? Assist
your children in drawing lines about who is appropriate
to communicate with, and who is not.
When talking to children about surfing online, it is
important to be honest with them. Children have to understand
the dangers, but should not live in fear. Balancing
candor and fear might be tricky, but you know your child
best and keeping it real will help them navigate and
how to stay safe online.
Trust online is a funny thing, just because someone
says something is true does not mean that it is. Bloggers
and online wikis are dealing with credibility issues,
yet individuals are often trusted until proven untrustworthy.
7. Identifying Information.
Instruct your child NEVER to share any identifying information
that includes phone numbers and addresses. And finally
,consider how non-anonymous the web really is http://www.small-business-software.net/anonymity-of-internet.htm
Children should not swap photos online. Exchanging photos
is unnecessary and puts children at a higher level of
risk. Additionally digital photographs can easily be
edited by a third party. An explicit online photo can
haunt a child for a lifetime.
Children should not complete profiles in blogging software
or social networks, like MySpace The profiles or hobbies
can often raise the interest of unwanted admirers.
10. Questionnaires/ Surveys.
Children should not complete questionnaires or surveys
online. The information requested may appear harmless,
but you do not know how the information will be used,
it is good practice to avoid completing any questionnaires
It of course goes without saying that children should
not meet any individual that they converse with online.
12. Chat Rooms.
Chat rooms are playgrounds for sexual predators. The
chat room owners have no method to detect a lurking
predator from a child. As a result it is just a good
practice to restrict access to chat rooms.
13. Instant Messaging.
Adolescents and teenagers often want to communicate,
whether on the phone or via the Internet. Instant messaging
is a popular phenomenon for children. If you allow your
child to communicate using instant messaging, be sure
to block instant messaging from anyone unknown. Additionally,
spot check their buddy list to make sure that it has
not been altered. Use a tool like AOL where restrictions
can be implemented.
14. Online Games.
Often online games, will contain a chat component. The
same rules that apply to instant messaging should apply
to the online games and chatting. Rarely are filters
available for the online games and many children will
encounter strangers who evolve into friends through
online play. Be leery and weary.
The Internet is global and not governed
by any single entity. There are no limitations. By creating
clear boundaries for your children they will be able
to take advantage of this amazing vehicle without putting
themselves at risk.
About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds
and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for
a wireless text messaging software company.
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