The Internet is without a doubt the most accessible and up-to-date resource tool to ever be developed. Along with Internet use, there are obvious inherent dangers, concerns and risks to children. The Internet is everywhere and our children are not protected when their parents turn a blind eye to the risks involved with its usage. With that in mind, here are some common sense guidelines to reduce the risk of your child being exposed to sexual exploitation or abuse.
Rules for Grown-ups:
1. Educate yourself and your child about the risks. There is no substitute for parental supervision, ever. Establish strict rules and maintain them. Make sure your child is aware of the consequences to breaking these rules. You may want to consider printing these rules and posting them next to your computer where your child can plainly see them.
2. We recommend that you use filtering or blocking software to limit your child’s Internet use. Just remember that nothing is fool-proof and nothing is more effective than parental supervision.
3. Limit your child’s daily social Internet usage. We recommend one hour per day or less.
4. Keep your computer in an open, high-traffic area in your home, such as in the Living Room, so that you can monitor your child’s Internet usage.
5. Make sure your child knows that not everyone online is who they say they are. The 10-year-old boy living across the country may in actuality be a child sexual predator who lives near your home.
6. You can monitor your child’s online activity by checking on their history and bookmarks. When it comes to your child, safety trumps privacy!!
7. It’s illegal to lure children on the Internet. If you have reason to believe that someone is trying to lure or abuse your child, immediately contact your local police AND the FBI.
8. Child porn is illegal. If you are made aware of any use, transmission or viewing of child porn online, immediately contact your local police AND the FBI.
Rules for Kids:
1. Go over the Internet rules with your parents. Make sure you clearly understand them.
2. Never email your picture to anyone without your parents’ permission.
3. Don’t ever give out personal information to anyone online without your parents’ permission. This means your age, your address, your telephone number, what you look like, the name of your school, or where your parents are at that moment. Never tell a stranger that you’re at home alone.
4. It’s NOT your fault if you get a message that’s mean or makes you feel bad or uncomfortable in any way. If this happens, tell your parents right away.
5. Never agree to meet a stranger in person. They may not be who they say they are.
How can I tell if my child is at risk online?
1. Your child becomes withdrawn from family and friends.
2. He or she starts receiving telephone calls from adults you don’t know or from long distance telephone numbers you don’t recognize.
3. Your child receives presents or packages in the mail from people you don’t know.
4. He or she abruptly changes the screen on the monitor or turns the computer off when you come near the computer.
5. Your child starts spending a large amount of time online behind your back, particularly in the middle of the night.
6. He or she is using an online account that belongs to someone else.
7. You find any kind of pornography – adult or child – on your child’s computer. There is no legitimate reason for a child to have these images in their computer. Again, safety trumps privacy when it comes to your children !!
Here are some resources to help you prevent child exploitation on the Internet:
• Safe Surf – www.safesurf.com. An organization which is working to create an online rating standard which will allow parents to detect the contents of websites before it’s displayed.
• Children’s Partnership Organization – www.childrenspartnership.org. Works to educate families about the Internet, along with issues related to children’s Internet use.
• Get Netwise – www.GetNetWise.org – A site which offers Internet safety tips, a guide for reporting child exploitation, and information regarding filtering software.
• Federal Trade Commission – www.ftc.gov – Be sure to check out the “Kids Privacy” section on this website. Here is also a tool for staying up-to-date on recent laws regarding this issue.
Finally, it is the parents’ job to make sure their children are aware of all the risks and rules of Internet usage. To quote Penelope Ettinger of PEI Kids, “There are now three doors to your house; the front door, the back door and the Internet. Lock them all.”