Monday, November 14, 2005

Are Your Kids Safe on the 'Net?

Okay, a serious post for a change. We all know that this world today isn't the world we grew up in. The pace is faster, the information is more available, the dangers are more present. I wasn't surprised when I watched MSNBC's Dateline report last night about online child predators. What did surprise me is that posing as young teens home alone, they were able to get 19 men in three days to show up at the house to prey on a young girl or boy. These were people that the "child" might have met in a chat room online. They were an assortment of people, professionals, a rabbi, a teacher of disabled children.

Most of the suggestions as to how to prevent this from happening to your child (the statistics are that 1 in 5 of children online will be solicited for sex) have to do with being alert and involved parents. Here are some of the suggestions from What you don’t know can hurt kids:

Teach your children to:
Think before they click:
With whom are they chatting or e-mailing, what are they saying and how are they saying it?
Will the person on the other end know they are joking?
Walk away from the computer and “Take 5” before responding to something that upsets them online
Avoid spreading rumors, assisting in cyberbullying or sharing private communications online.

Follow the golden rule of cyberspace:
Don’t do anything online that you wouldn’t do in real life!
Follow responsible safety practices yourself:
Install spyware and adware blocking software on your computer
Make sure you have a working firewall
Install anti-virus software and update it regularly
Take advantage of spam-blocking tools offered by your Internet provider or e-mail software

And more importantly, talk to your kids. Tell them frankly about the dangers. Ask them with whom are you talking. Don't allow internet access in a private place, such as a bedroom. Be suspicious of any gifts or phone calls from people you don't know. Web cams have become a particular problem and should be allowed only in public parts of the house.

Blogs: I've noticed many children, particularly pre-teens and teens, are starting blogs. Blogs are a good thing, encouraging writing. Make sure, however, that your child does not publish any personal information, email address, or photos that could lead one of these sickos to your baby.

Net Nanny is a reasonably priced program that can block chat rooms and objectionable websites. It has the added feature of being able to limit the times of day that a child has access to the Internet, for example not after you yourself go to bed.

The Internet and computers are valuable resources, but the pace of the technology changes rapidly. We owe it to our children, if we are allowing it in our house, to keep up with ways to keep them safe.

To read more:
Catching potential Internet sex predators
Wired Safety
Blog Sites, Profile Sites, Diary Sites or Social-Networking Sites
Wired Kids

1 comment:

ginabina said...

Thanks for the important reminder. It's sooo scary! I'm going to link to your post on my blog.


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