Kids safety on the Internet is a hot topic for concerned parents. However, taking a proactive approach to your child's online usage is the best way to help keep him/her safe.
Sexual predators, cyber bullies, cyber stalkers and identity thieves represent very real online dangers for children of all ages. Consider the following facts:
- According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 22 percet of people targeted by online predators were children ages 10-13.
- The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports 25 percent of children say they've received unwanted sexual material while surfing the Internet.
- In 2004, 57 percent of students told iSafe.org researchers they had been victims of cyber bullying.
- A survey by eMarketer revealed that 75 percent of children saw nothing wrong with sharing personal information online about themselves or their family in exchange for goods and services.
- The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that children are the newest targets for identity theft, since they can be easily persuaded to divulge personal information and the crime is unlikely to be discovered until the victim is much older.
What Can Parents Do?
When faced with alarming statistics about kids safety on the Internet, many parents wonder if the best course of action is to simply prohibit computer usage in the home. However, it's important to remember that the Internet can be a valuable resource as well. Children need to learn how to use the Web for academic research and it's often a great tool for keeping in touch with faraway friends and family. To help your younger children and teens stay safe while using the Internet, remember these tips:
- Keep the computer in a central location. Don't allow your child to have a computer in his/her room. The kitchen or family room is a much better location, since you'll be more easily able to supervise Internet activity.
- Install filtering or blocking software on your computer to protect your children from objectionable content. If you don't understand how the software works, ask a more-experienced friend for help.
- Consider placing limits on Internet usage. You may decide that it's best to allow your child one hour of Internet access per day or to require that all chores are finished before surfing the Web. Choose rules that work for your family and make sure everyone who cares for your children on a regular basis knows your Internet policy.
- Talk to your kids about how you use the Internet. Discussing the Internet's role in your life is a great way to start a dialogue about online safety.
Rules for Kids Safety on the Internet
Even if you think your children are technologically savvy, don't assume they understand the concept of personal Internet safety. All children believe they are invincible. Even if your child has seen news reports detailing online dangers, he/she is unlikely to grasp the extent of the problem.Before you allow your children to go online, make sure they agree to the following ground rules:
- Don't post anything online that you wouldn't be willing to say in real life.
- Never give out your address, phone number, school or parent's names without permission.
- Don't send pictures or packages to people you've met online unless you have a parent's permission.
- Don't share Internet passwords with friends.
- Never install programs on your computer without permission.
- Never agree to meet someone you've met online in person.
- If you find something online that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to a parent.
If you think your children would respond well to a reminder, post these rules near your family's computer.
To learn more about keeping your children safe online, check out the following resources: