But the Internet can also be full of risks for children, like exposure to inappropriate materials, bullying, sexual predators and even drug dealers.
Keep your kids safe from:
Pornography and Sexual Predators
The Facts: While most kids who receive sexual advances online ignore or delete them, you need to educate your child to ensure his safety.
- 42% of kids (ages 10 – 17) admitted to having seen online porn while surfing the Internet, according to a 2005 a University of New Hampshire study.
- 66% of those kids did not click on the links they saw or look for this content
- One in seven kids between the ages of 10 – 17 has been sexually approached online.
- 43% of sexual advances were made by other kids under 18. 11% of these advances were made by people the victims already knew.
Protect your kids with “show and tell”:
- If you allow your kids to use IM, chat rooms or blogs, help them sign up. Show what not to fill in, so they don’t give away personal information. Talk about what kinds of conversations are appropriate and what are not.
- Make sure your kids use gender-neutral screen names. Show them some examples of screen names that are not appropriate (for example: girliegrl85)
- Show your children stories about other kids who have been victims.
- Tell your kids not to respond to sexual advances and to inform you if someone approaches them.
- Tell them not to respond to emails from people they don’t know. It’s okay not to answer every instant message or email.
- Tell kids not to share personal informationincluding their phone and cell numbers, address, age, e-mail address, screen names, pictures, school and the town where you live. Explain why this is dangerous.
- Explain how people “lie” online. Tell your kids that the “16-year-old boy” who wants to meet you might not be sixteen. He could be a 45-year-old man instead. People also pretend to be members of the opposite sex online. You might show older kids articles about online pedophiles who try to meet kids online for sex.
- Tell them never to meet anyone in person who they meet online. You never know who that person really is.
Cyber Bullying, Stalking and Harassment
The same things that happen on the playground can also happen online. Cyber bullying means being cruel to other kids online. This can include:
- pretending to be someone else and sending hurtful or embarrassing messages
- telling someone’s secrets
- spreading rumors
- hate crimes, based on race, religion, appearance or sexual orientation
Why is it dangerous?
Cyber bullying can cause low self-esteem, skipping school, depression and even suicide. Online threats can be more harmful than face-to-face bullying, because there’s no escape. It can happen 24/7. Kids may be afraid to tell their parents, because they don’t want their online access to be restricted.
How to keep your child safe:
- google your child (search full name, email address, screen name – use quotation marks for an exact search – for example “Jane Smith”).
- report harassment to WiredSafety.org using this form.
Risky behavior for cyber bullying:
- Internet addiction: spending too much time online
- Sharing personal information online
- Visiting suicide web sites
- Playing violent computer games
- Using the Internet for sexual activities
If your child is being threatened offline, call the police immediately.
Buying Drugs Online
Internet drug dealers sell drugs to children by advertising it as candy. Kids can easily buy addictive prescription, street or over-the-counter drugs online. All they need is access to a parent’s credit card that may be stored on the computer.
Access to drugs over the Internet is a fairly new phenomenon and laws and regulations have yet to catch up with it. But even with laws in place, parents need to make sure their kids are safe from online drug dealers and sites that sell prescription drugs.
What parents should know:
You can’t depend on monitoring software to catch this.
- Drugs often arrive in unmarked packages. Don’t let your child open a mailed package without you.
- It’s not always a street drug. Many websites explain how to get high off cough medicine. Monitor your child’s Internet use by checking your computer’s history.
- Follow the Beehive’s guide to keeping kids safe online