Chat Room Dangers
The most dangerous place for
a child to go online is a chat room.
Although children need a
certain degree of privacy, they also need
parental involvement in their lives. Pedophiles frequent chat
rooms and online solicitation produces a great deal of distress for
any child. (Source: The National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
The FBI warns that computer-based sex offenders
may be any age or sex and that child predators do not always fit
the image of a dirty old man in a
in five of American youths who surfed the net
regularly were the targets of unwanted sexual attention".
According to a study published in
Journal of the American Medical Association
As parents, we need to familiarize ourselves with
how our children use the Internet. We must regularly ask them to
show us the sites they
visit online and we should monitor
who their e-mail correspondence is to and from. If they participate
in chat rooms, take the time to "lurk" in such rooms and monitor the
activity. Parents need to
develop "Internet parenting expertise"
for the same reasons we develop basic parenting skills. Kids
need parental advice and protection online and
Adults (sex offenders and rip-off
artists) posing as kids in chat rooms will offer to exchange
personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers. This
action could put your child and your entire family at risk.
How can you tell that your child
may be a victim (or is being preyed upon) by a computer sex
offender? If you have experienced any of the following, you have
reason for concern.
Spending long hours online
(especially in the evening)
Phone calls from people you
Unsolicited gifts arriving via
Child turns off the computer
when you enter the room
withdrawal from family
Reluctance to discuss Internet
Tips for protecting your child online
The best way to protect your child online
is to show him how to use the Internet safely. We can help
protect our children from online predators by
asking them to follow some simple
Always use a "screen name".
Never disclose your real name, school, phone number or where
Always tell mom/dad if they receive any ominous
communication that is frightening
Never exchange photographs over the Internet (or
through the mail).
Never agree to meet anyone in person that you met in a
Never give out your password to anyone.
Never agree to
Never accept everything a person says online at face
As long as your child follows these
rules, no one can harm her through the Internet.
But in the end, it is up to you to take an active interest in
your child's online activity.
The Internet is a
terrible substitute for a babysitter.
How you can enhance your child's online
Spend time online with your child to teach
correct behavior. Below are some additional
tips that can make the Internet experience more rewarding for both
you and your child.
Locate your computer in a
common part of your home, not in a bedroom or secluded room.
Bookmark your child's
favorite Web sites to minimize searching and mistyped URLs.
Talk to your child. Tell
them exactly what is Ok and what is not acceptable regarding Web
sites they can visit.
Make sure your child knows
that they are to behave courteously and respectfully while
online with friends or strangers.
Consider sharing one
e-mail address with your child so that you can monitor messages.
Scrutinize your phone
bills and credit card statements for unusual charges.
Set firm time limits and
rules for Internet use and enforce them. Believe it or not,
Internet addiction is a real thing! (See
Establish consequences for
when your child violates the rules (i.e. losing Internet
privileges for 1 week)
Explain to your your child
that if they should receive "dirty pictures" (pornographic spam
or child pornography), make them understand that although they
might be embarrassed, they must alert you to any such mailings.
That's one of the "rules".
Forward copies of
pornographic spam or threatening messages to your ISP.
Contact your local
police or the FBI.
Center for Missing and Exploited Children
if you are aware of distribution, or solicitation of child
Praise your child for
reporting this activity.
If you are not an experienced
computer user, you need to learn how to surf the Web and
use chat so that you understand
what it is your child is doing online. If you don't know how to
do this, your child can
probably teach you!
Worst case, your local
community college probably offers an inexpensive course that can be
completed in a few hours.
The Internet is a marvelous, educational
resource that can help your children (and
you) expand their sphere of knowledge
in ways we never
imagined. You can ensure they profit from
all the Net has to offer if you take an active role in your
children's Internet activities.