Why You Should be Concerned
The Internet provides great opportunities for kids to learn, socialize, and have fun. However, many parents are unaware of the dangers of letting their children roam free on the Internet. The U.S. Child Safety Technical Task Force identified three online risks to children in its December 2008 Final Report on Enhancing Child Safety & Online Technologies. The risks identified and analyzed were: (1) harassment and bullying, (2) sexual solicitation, and (3) exposure to problematic and illegal content. Some of the results from the study are as follows:
1) Bullying and harassment (cyber-bullying), most often by peers, is the most frequent threat that minors face online.
2) Sexual predation of minors by adults remains a concern. The Task Force noted that more research needs to be done concerning the activities of sex offenders in social networking sites and other online environments.
3) The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic (violent media including movies, music, images and pornography) and illegal content. Older male minors were the most likely to seek out and be exposed to pornography. Other concerns included violent, pornographic and other problematic content that young people themselves generate and post online.
What You Can Do
- Become Internet savvy. Don’t be intimidated – get on and explore, ask friends, ask your children.
- Be informed. Know what your child does online, with whom they are communicating, and through what networks.
- Use filtering, monitoring and parental control software to protect your children.
- Keep the computer in a public place in the home and limit access to technology, especially late at night when you’re asleep (by password protecting, turning it off or installing usage controls).
- Be conscious of the common risks young people face and train your children to navigate technology safely.
- Teach your children to never give out personal information online.
- Be attentive to at-risk minors in the community and in your children’s peer group.
- Recognize when you need to seek help from others.
Know the Signs of Online Problematic Behavior
If you don’t have monitoring software installed, it’s difficult to know when your child is chatting online with a predator or viewing inappropriate pages. Possible signs may include:
- Long hours online, especially at night.
- Phone calls from people you don’t know.
- Unsolicited gifts arriving in the mail.
- Your child suddenly turning off the computer or minimizing a page when you walk in the room.
- Withdrawal from family life.
- Reluctance to discuss online activities.
- Declining interest in friends and/or extracurricular activities.
- Declining grades.
Know the Signs of Cyber-bullying
- Signs of emotional distress during or after using the Internet.
- Withdrawal from friends and activities.
- Avoidance of school or group gatherings.
- Slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home.
- Changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite.
Internet Terms and Definitions
- Blog – Short for web log; a personal web site that uses a dated log format and contains personal commentary much like a journal entry.
- Cyber-bullying – When a child is threatened, harassed, humiliated or otherwise targeted by another child, using the Internet or a mobile phone.
- Chat room – An online location where a conversation can take place in real time.
- Filter – Software designed to restrict content viewed on your computer.
- Firewall – A system that creates a “wall” to keep out unwanted information like spam, viruses and hackers who try to “hack” into other people’s computers to steal their information.
- Monitoring Software – Allows parents to keep track of what has been done on the computer.
- Parental Controls – Software that allows a parent to monitor or limit what a child can see or do on a computer.
- Usage Controls – Allows parents to limit their children’s access to certain information on, and areas of, the Internet.
If you ever feel like the situation is getting out of your control, seek professional advice!
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