Internet Safety: How To Protect Your Children

Has your child seen any adult images online? You might not think so, but recent studies show that more than half the children who use the Internet have been exposed to indecent material and only one in six parents is aware of it. As a parent, there are some things you can do immediately to stop it.

Today, any computer-literate child can view anything, from adult material to graphic videos, online chats, live adult shows, virtual adult parties, user-generated offensive material, and material that is illegal and subject to prosecution. Children are given all this access free of charge as a means to lure them into becoming victims and to get them to reveal information about your family.

There are legitimate sites for children but predators have easy and anonymous access to children online where they can conceal their identity and roam without limit even on legitimate sites. While more and more law enforcement agencies are setting up cyber crime units, for now, it is the responsibility of parents to play cyber cop to protect their children and family.

Explain to your children that talking online to strangers is a very bad idea. Be as direct as you can, even to the point of frightening them. Stress that they may be endangering not just themselves but your entire family by exposing details to a predator. Being online is not as anonymous as most people believe. Predators have ways of easily finding out real names and addresses of children they chat with.

Explain to your children, male or female, that child molesters frequent chat rooms on the Internet. If you are not familiar with chat rooms, it is time that you investigated what they are and how they work. If your children have access to the Internet, they have access to chat rooms. Child molesters pose as children or “confidants” trying to develop friendships with unsuspecting children. Child molesters lure their victims with promises of friendship and material goods. Many adolescent Internet users look for anonymous friends, someone they believe they can safely chat with while their unsuspecting parents are not present. And, too often, it works!

If you are not computer savvy, ask your children to show you how it’s done or take some night classes. Do not just watch your kids surf or just talk to your kids about what they are seeing or doing online. Get involved. This will help everyone, including you, understand better what is going on.

Your child may be more tech savvy than you, but do not let that intimidate you, says Frank Gallagher, education and media literacy director at Cable in the Classroom, an industry-sponsored nonprofit group. Ask lots of questions. Learn to use the computer and the Internet yourself so your children cannot fool you and hide what they are doing online.

If you fear confronting your child, you can take a hidden approach. There are many software programs available that can be loaded into your computer that will track everything your child does without them being aware of it. Check local computer stores or online for programs. There are even some that are free online. You will be able to see exactly the sites they visit, who they are talking to, and what is being said without them knowing.

You can also have a tech person set up parental controls on your child’s computer. Parental controls are already built into all windows based computers so it’s there and it’s free. It can be password protected so your child is prevented from accessing adult related material. Only you will know the password so you will be able to approve or deny access to sites they want to visit. This could create some friction between you and your child but it will give you a chance to discuss the dangers presented by online predators.

With these tips you can practice proper online safety. Your children will not be taken advantage of and, the fact is, these Internet safety tips will go a long way to keeping your whole family safe from online predators.