Like in no other place on earth, the Internet presents a trmendous opportunity for wicked individuals who would do harm to our children. Every day, an unsuspecting child meets a sly adult sexual predator in an Internet chat room — and what may happen next is every parent’s nightmare.
It is a sad fact that many children are online with only limited, or even no, adult supervision. Suffice it to say that the blending of millions of children using the Internet with limited or no adult supervision can be a very dangerous, and in some cases, a deadly combination.
What makes this issue even more complex is that kids are not limited to online access just at home. In fact, a Federal Trade Commission report revealed that millions of children also have Internet access from schools and libraries.
It is common to describe the Internet as a “virtual world,” but tragically, there are real criminals and genuine cyber predators lurking and prowling the World Wide Web looking to discover and snare their next innocent child victim.
So what can you really do to help make a children visit online safer? Here are a few “safe surfing” suggestions from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Web site:
1. Never give out information like your home address, school name, age or telephone number in a public message such as chat or bulletin boards.
A Quick Security Tip: Consider using a pseudonym or unlisting your child name if your service allows it.
2. Get to know the services your child uses. If you don’t know how to log on, get your child to show you. Find out what information the services offer and whether there are ways to block objectionable material.
3. Consider buying blocking/monitoring software, which can be purchased for $20-$50 at retail stores. Blocking software will not only block objectionable sites, but can control the times of day your child can get online and keeps a record of the sites visited and the information exchanged.
4. Monitor not only your younger children’s Internet practices, but also your teen’s.
A Quick Security Tip: Teenagers are more likely to get into trouble online than younger kids.
5. Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without your permission.
A Quick Security Tip: If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public area, and be sure to accompany your child.
6. Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening or make you feel uncomfortable.
A Quick Security Tip: Parents, encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages, and forward such messages to your service provider or your local police or sheriff’s department, and ask you their assistance. If the offensive message arrives via email, print out a copy with “All Header Information.” Your service provider can tell you how to do this.
7. Should you become aware of the transmission, use or viewing of child pornography, immediately contact your local police or sheriff’s department.
8. Remember that people online may not be who they say they are. For instance, because there is no face-to-face contact, someone saying they are a 12-year-old girl could really be a 50-year-old man.
9. Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that sounds too good to be true, probably is.
A Quick Security Tip: Be careful of offers that involve a face-to-face meeting or having someone visit your house.
10. Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use for your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Monitor their compliance, especially when it comes to the amount of time spent on the computer.
A Quick Security Tip: Excessive use of online services, especially at night, may be an indication of a problem.
11. Consider “surfing the net” a family activity. Keep the computer in the family room rather than a child’s bedroom. Get to know your child’s online friends just as you would their other friends.
For more information on these ideas, log on to www.maricopacountyattorney.org.
My Final Thoughts: The World Wide Web is a powerful and wonderful resource for all of us, including children. It is vital, however, that kids learn to use the Internet in a safe and proper manner. Only with appropriate adult supervision and communication can children have the strong foundation for a safer and more secure online journey.
Note: If you manufacture or distribute any security, safety, emergency preparedness, homeland defense or crime prevention related products, please send information on your product line for possible future reference in this column to: CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Copyright 2007 by Bruce Mandelblit
“Staying Safe” with Bruce Mandelblit is a regular column for the readers of NewsMax.com and NewsMax magazine.
Bruce welcomes your thoughts. His e-mail address is CrimePrevention123@yahoo.com.
Bruce is a nationally known security journalist, as well as a recently retired, highly decorated reserve law enforcement officer.
Bruce writes "Staying Safe," a weekly syndicated column covering the topics of security, safety and crime prevention.
Bruce was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel — the state’s highest honor — for his public service.
This column is provided for general information purposes only. Please check with your local law enforcement agency and legal professional for information specific to you and your jurisdiction.
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