Warning signs for drug and alcohol abuse in children

Warning signs for drug and alcohol abuse in children

Chat Room Dangers

Child predators do not always fit the image of a dirty old man in a raincoat.

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 raincoat.

"Nearly one in five of American youths who surfed the net
 regularly were the targets of unwanted sexual attention".

According to a study published in the
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 off.

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.  

Warning signs for drug and alcohol abuse in children

Warning signs

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 don't know

  • Unsolicited gifts arriving via the mail

  • Child turns off the computer when you enter the room

  • withdrawal from family activities

  • Reluctance to discuss Internet activities

Warning signs for drug and alcohol abuse in children

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 rules.

  • Always use a "screen name". Never disclose your real name, school, phone number or where you live.

  • Always tell mom/dad if they receive any ominous communication that is frightening or upsetting.

  • Never exchange photographs over the Internet (or through the mail).

  • Never agree to meet anyone in person that you met in a chat room.

  • Never give out your password to anyone.

  • Never agree to enter private chat rooms.

  • Never accept everything a person says online at face value.

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.

Warning signs for drug and alcohol abuse in children

How you can enhance your child's online experience

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 this)

  • 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.

    • Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if you are aware of distribution, or solicitation of child pornography.

    • 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.





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Warning signs for drug and alcohol abuse in children

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This site last updated
January 12, 2007