Minimizing the Danger to Internet Predators
Six to nine-year-olds are more easily guided to safer online habits than older children. With this group, avoid a long list of do's and don'ts. Discuss the basics with them:
- Stay completely out of chat rooms - the dangers are too great.
- Do not reply to unknown persons or addresses.
- Do not give out personal information.
- Never share passwords, even with a best friend.
- Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone met online.
- Don't believe everything you read online.
- Do tell a parent if something online makes you uncomfortable.
- Teach your child which sites are appropriate and set limits.
The rest is up to you as the parent. Keep the computer out in the open where the family gathers and never in a child's bedroom. It's not that you don't trust a child; you just don't want to put him in harm's way. When you pass by, sit for a while and check on its use.
Engage a good filtering service. A filter acts as a shield against undesirable Web content when a request is made. Most high=speed Internet providers offer a filtering service. But don't think that a savvy child can't get around a filter.
Guidelines for older children:
Older children need more specific ground rules. Reinforce previous guidelines but get more specific.
- Know which chat rooms your child visits. Know whom they talk to and monitor their conversations.
- Instruct your child never to leave a chat room's public area for a private area, often called "whisper" areas.
- Tell your child never to respond to messages or emails from strangers.
- Emphasize never sharing personal information online: no photos, phone or mobile numbers, addresses, even their age or gender. Give no information about their family and fill out no personal profiles.
- Delete email attachments from unknown people as they can contain viruses.
- If anything happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened, or if someone starts to ask questions that are too personal or sexually suggestive, log off and report it immediately to parents.
- Think about what they are putting in writing and who might get a hold of it.
- Never make plans to meet anyone previously unknown without parental approval. Everyone on the Internet is not as funny or nice as they may sound.
Once these steps are in place, carefully monitor Internet use. This isn't "spying" on your child, but protecting him from things he may not yet understand. Then talk openly about Internet safety with the whole family. Make a topic for supper conversation. Remind all family members that safeguarding values is a priority in your home.