By Jason Reis
Most school age children in today’s society have full access to the internet. While it is true that the internet possesses an infinite amount of information which can help with schoolwork, it also opens up a whole new social world and brings together people from all over the world that may be preying on children.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 5 children state they have received unwanted sexual advances while online.
And, a 2006 study by the Zandi Group of teenage students reported the following disturbing statistics:
54% of students surveyed said they frequently have private conversations with online strangers
42% of teens said they have posted personal information online
30% of teens reported that they have talked with a cyber stranger about
meeting in person
16% of pre-teens and teens discovered that someone online was an adult
pretending to be much younger.
In the same study;
33% of pre-teens and teens say that their parents know little or nothing about what they do online,
22% say their parents have never discussed Internet safety with them
42% of parents don't monitor what their children read or type in chat rooms.
95% of parents have stated they don't understand the shorthand lingo kids' use in chatrooms such as "A/S/L" which means age/sex/location, or "P911" which means parent over shoulder.
Parents need to know what their children are doing on the internet at all times. The internet is a world that is the total opposite of the offline “real world.” For instance, we teach our children never to talk to strangers or give out personal information. We even define a stranger as anyone the child has not met and does not know. Yet in cyberspace, with the popularity of sites like Facebook or MySpace, kids are talking to strangers and even exchanging personal information on a daily basis.
Even internet games have become a source for predators to contact children, as well as a place where children get harassed and bullied. X-Box, PlayStation and even many computer games now include features that allow children to talk to each other real time (using a microphone).
Many parents are still intimidated by computers because they simply don't understand them, yet kids seem to grasp technology much faster. However parents need to educate themselves and learn the lingo. It's only after they learn the language and put aside their technology fears that they can truly understand the threat and protect their child from it.
Here are important tips to keep your children safe online:
1. Create your own home computer rules that each child should read, understand and sign. Keep a copy posted near the computer.
2. Keep the home computer in a common space that can easily be seen by parent(s) as they do house choirs, not in a child’s room.
3. Look into purchasing filtering programs such as “spyware”, “adware” and anti-virus, and parental block software to safeguard web surfing.
4. If your child uses chat or e-mail, talk to them about never meeting in- person with anyone they first "met" online.
5. Talk to your child about who they are emailing and chatting with online.
6. Visit the websites your child visits on a regular basis. If your child has a MySpace or Facebook account, log in and become familiar with the site and review what your child has posted.
7. Type your child's full name, username and any alias you know your child uses into a search engine. Children often post on message boards and social networking sites. This is a good way to discover what your child is posting online.
8. Monitor where your child goes online. For example, all computers have a history folder and temp files folder which enable you to see what websites have been visited, as well as any files that have been downloaded.
9. Teach your child the golden rule of cyberspace: Never do anything online that they would not do offline.
10. Get involved with your child and stay in the loop of what he/she is doing online, while still allowing some level of personal space.
Jason Reis is the owner of Session Media, a website development and branding solutions firm based out of Selden, NY. Session Media strives to provide the service and solutions that satisfy their existing customer needs—as well as to meet the needs of new customers. With access to some of the best resources for product development and branding services, Jason welcomes the opportunity to provide advice and solutions on a myriad of IT topics, including safety and security. For information, check out his website at www.sessionmedia.net and drop him an email.