Tips to Keeping Children Safe Online
By Sharon Housley
There was once a time when you only had to worry about children
when they were outside or not at home. Those times have changed.
Strangers can now enter your home, without a key or coming through a
door. How you may ask? These strangers enter your home using a
keyboard. These strangers can befriend your children online.
Social networking has become increasingly popular and websites
like Myspace have thrived with adolescents and teens. While
pedophiles may be the minority on these sites, the threat of having
a pedophile enter your home, under the guise of being someone their
not, is just too big of a threat to ignore.
It may seem harmless enough, at first glance. I mean, what do
other web surfers really know about your child? They might even live
half a world away. How could they possibly harm your child? Perhaps
you might even see the educational value of your child interacting
with individuals from other cultures and understanding the global
nature of today's world, but consider this...
Children online don't feel that these "friends" are strangers.
They "chat" with them daily. These people, who parents consider
strangers, are their friends. They understand what the child is
going through and they listen in ways the parents never seem to. The
recent riveting testimony of a young boy that was drawn into online
pornography at the age of 13, should be a wake up call to all
parents. Computers and the Internet can be far more dangerous than
most parents ever imagine. The likelihood of a child online will
encounter strangers is far higher than a stranger wandering into
Parents warn their children about strangers as they grow up,
perhaps its time to redefine the term stranger. Consider the
following to protect your child, adolescent, or teenager while
Do not allow your children to use a webcam unsupervised. Children
will often forget that the webcams are there or even worse, what may
seem harmless online flirting might result in unwarranted or
undesired attention from an anonymous predator. Additionally,
webcams have been tied to home robberies where burglars viewed items
of interest through a webcam. A little online digging resulted in
the home address, and items were then stolen.
2. Common Area
In spite of an adolescents or a teenagers need for privacy, it is
best to keep the computer in a family common area. It might be
helpful to explain to your child why it is important that computers
be out in the open. Children should understand that using a computer
is not a right, is a privilege. Parents can and should supervise
3. Personal Information
Personal information is just that, personal, and should not be
shared by children. As easy as that is to say, sometimes children
are often confused as to what constitutes personal information.
Educating children about what personal information is, is just as
important as educating them as telling them not to share. Children
need to understand that just because someone asks for personal
information doesn't mean you have to tell them.
What is personal information? Knowing not to share your location,
name, age, address, phone number, town, password, and schedule might
seem obvious to children, but what many don't realize is that
predators will often piece together various bits of information. A
predator will aggregate data to determine a child's location or true
identity. Predators are able to use IP tracking and the location of
an online web provider that you use might assist them in narrowing
down a location. Information related to sports events or scheduled
concerts will further allow a predator to ascertain a child's
location and personal information.
Provide adolescents and teenagers these tips in determining what
information is appropriate or inappropriate to share. Tell them to
ask themselves how the predator can use the requested information?
Is it necessary for them to have that information? Why?
4. Crossing the Bounds
It is easy to explain to a child that a stranger is someone they
don't know in the real world, but online the definition becomes
blurred. Is a friend of a friend online, a stranger? If you have
communicated X number of times with someone, are they still a
stranger? Assist your children in drawing lines about who is
appropriate to communicate with, and who is not.
When talking to children about surfing online, it is important to
be honest with them. Children have to understand the dangers, but
should not live in fear. Balancing candor and fear might be tricky,
but you know your child best and keeping it real will help them
navigate and how to stay safe online.
Trust online is a funny thing, just because someone says
something is true does not mean that it is. Bloggers and online
wikis are dealing with credibility issues, yet individuals are often
trusted until proven untrustworthy.
7. Identifying Information
Instruct your child NEVER to share any identifying information
that includes phone numbers and addresses. And finally ,consider how
non-anonymous the web really is http://www.small-business-software.net/anonymity-of-internet.htm
Children should not swap photos online. Exchanging photos is
unnecessary and puts children at a higher level of risk.
Additionally digital photographs can easily be edited by a third
party. An explicit online photo can haunt a child for a lifetime.
Children should not complete profiles in blogging software or
social networks, like MySpace The profiles or hobbies can often
raise the interest of unwanted admirers.
10. Questionnaires/ Surveys
Children should not complete questionnaires or surveys online.
The information requested may appear harmless, but you do not know
how the information will be used, it is good practice to avoid
completing any questionnaires or surveys.
It of course goes without saying that children should not meet
any individual that they converse with online.
12. Chat Rooms
Chat rooms are playgrounds for sexual predators. The chat room
owners have no method to detect a lurking predator from a child. As
a result it is just a good practice to restrict access to chat
13. Instant Messaging
Adolescents and teenagers often want to communicate, whether on
the phone or via the Internet. Instant messaging is a popular
phenomenon for children. If you allow your child to communicate
using instant messaging, be sure to block instant messaging from
anyone unknown. Additionally, spot check their buddy list to make
sure that it has not been altered. Use a tool like AOL where
restrictions can be implemented.
14. Online Games
Often online games, will contain a chat component. The same rules
that apply to instant messaging should apply to the online games and
chatting. Rarely are filters available for the online games and many
children will encounter strangers who evolve into friends through
online play. Be leery and weary.
The Internet is global and not governed by any single entity.
There are no limitations. By creating clear boundaries for your
children they will be able to take advantage of this amazing vehicle
without putting themselves at risk.
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll
software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts.
In addition Sharon manages marketing for NotePage
http://www.notepage.net a wireless text messaging software