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How To Keep Your Child Safe On The Internet

Aug 17, 2007
Pokemon, Beanie Babies, Tickle Me Elmo and Harry Potter are childhood fads that will come and go. The Internet, however, is a growing phenomenon that is here to stay.

It can be a source of entertainment and information for your children, and it will be a workplace tool as they grow older.

Sadly, it also poses threats to their safety. Take a few minutes to review these suggestions on ways to make your child's Internet experience wholesome and productive.

Tell Your Children

* Never give out identifying information such as name, home address, school name, or telephone number in a public message, such as a chat room or bulletin board.

* Always ask your parents' permission before using your full name, address, telephone number or school name anywhere on the Internet.

* Never send a person a picture of you without first checking with your parent or guardian.

* Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are obscene, suggestive, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. If you get such a message, don't respond. Instead, show it to your parents or a trusted adult. Sending a response just encourages the person.

* Never meet a new online "friend" without adult supervision. (Parents: If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot. Be sure to accompany your child.)

* Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Be very careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house. The biggest danger to your safety is if you get together with someone you "meet" online.

* Regardless of who asks, you don't have to provide any information that you don't want to share.

* Never give out your password to anyone, even if they say they're from your Internet service.

Suggestions For Parents

* Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss the rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor their compliance, especially when it comes to the amount of time spent on the computer.

* Be sure your child is using kid-friendly search engines. Check with your Internet service provider for suggestions.

* Keep the computer in view in the family room or kitchen, not in a child's room.

* Monitor your child's chat rooms and e-mail. Set and enforce time limits for chatting, e-mailing and surfing.

* Consider software that can monitor where your children have been online, block sites with objectionable words or images, limit computer time and prevent children from divulging too much information. Remember, however, that filters are not perfect. Even if filters were 100 percent effective, this kind of software is no substitute for your guidance and involvement.

* Find out the safeguards used at other locations your child visits.

* Young children should not be allowed to "surf the Net" alone.

* Get to know the service your child uses. If you don't know how to log on, get your child to show you.

* If your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.

* Get to know your child's online friends just as you get to know all of their other friends.

* Watch for these danger signs and take prompt action if your child:
-Spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
-Has pornography on the computer.
-Receives phone calls from people you don't know.
-Makes calls to numbers you don't recognize.
-Turns the monitor off or changes the screen when you enter the room.
-Receives mail, gifts, or packages from a stranger.
-Becomes withdrawn from the family.

If you become aware of any incidents that could put your child at risk, or indecent material involving children, immediately call the police or the FBI. For additional information, visit the FBI's web site, http://www.fbi.gov and search for "internet safety."
About the Author
John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..
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