Now that school is almost back in, thousands of children will be surfing the Internet to conduct research, chat with new school mates, and complete homework assignments. Although the Internet provides a tremendous learning tool for children, left unchecked it can also expose them to inappropriate material and unscrupulous individuals looking to exploit innocent children.
The statistics of online abuse towards children are alarming. According to a new survey conducted by NetAlert, nearly one child in every five using the Internet has been approached online by a stranger, and 47 per cent of children have been exposed to material that is pornographic, sexually explicit, violent, hateful, or that encourages them to participate in dangerous or illegal activities.
According to Highlights of the Youth Internet Safety Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five children received unwanted sexual solicitations online, and there are a growing number of cases of pedophiles using the Internet to gain a child’s confidence and arrange a face-to-face meetings (also known as ‘online grooming’).
These cyber criminals are using everything from spam e-mails to online messaging, children’s chat rooms, and misleading domain names to trap children. If your child is using the Internet, you must take measures to educate and protect them from these dangers. As part of my back-to-school newsletter edition, I’ve outlined 3 things you should be doing now to keep your kids safe online:
Install web and e-mail filtering software to prevent your children from viewing inappropriate material. A good, inexpensive software is offered on www.netnanny.com. Not only will this keep the trash off your computer screen, but it will also stop inappropriate spam from reaching your children.
Talk to your kids about online safety and proper Internet usage. Set limits and guidelines about when they can go online, what they can do, and how long they are allowed to be online. Explain why it is dangerous for them to “chat” with strangers online or download suspicious looking files.
Give your children specific online guidelines or rules to follow when using the Internet. It’s not enough to warn them about potential risks; pedophiles know how to cloak their identity and gain a child’s confidence to arrange face-to-face meetings.
If you want more information on how to keep your children safe online or to report illegal, violent, or explicit acts towards children, go to www.cybertipline.com. This site is run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and is a great resource for parents, teachers, and guardians.