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Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

As a parent you would do anything to protect your child, but unfortunately many of us parents don’t realize the dangers lurking on the internet. To better educate parents and kids, we have compiled a comprehensive article that will educate even those of us who are technology illiterate! To do this, first you need to understand what dangers are lurking on the internet.

The Dangers on the Net

Pedophiles

The most obvious is internet predators. These are people who are searching for victims that they can verbally or sexually abuse over the internet. In worst case scenarios these people are able to develop a relationship with unsuspecting kids via the internet and eventually gain enough trust or information to meet their victim face to face. If you are like me, you are confident your child would never be foolish enough to give out personal information on the internet, but what we don’t realize is how easily predators are manipulating our kids and gaining what we believe is innocent information.

Pedophiles are often highly intelligent people. What they lack in morals is often compensated with their ability to read people. Being able to read people gives them the ability to create a relationship with their victims. Whether their victim is feeling like an outcast at school or is feeling withdrawn from their family, a pedophile can detect these inadequacies and use them as a tool to build an internet relationship. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that Samantha just tried out for cheerleading and was extremely disappointed when she didn’t make it. Samantha, being disappointed, turns to her internet world where she can be anyone she wants to be. An intuitive pedophile has been stalking the internet for months, leaving messages about how unfair life is and how at “her” school the rich, popular kids get all the breaks. Samantha finds these posts and replies, feeling the exact same way. This pedophile has just created an online relationship with an unsuspecting victim.

Because the World Wide Web allows anonymity, pedophiles and other such behaviors that are typically not accepted in a traditional society flourish on the net. Pedophiles have even created support groups on the internet allowing an extremely dangerous group to create an atmosphere that allows these monsters to feel as if their behavior is acceptable. Talking to our kids about these dangers is essential in protecting them.

Bullying

Internet bullying is another tragic consequence of the internet. According to the United States Department of Justice, 1 in 17 kids have been harassed on the internet.[1][1] In severe cases, children have committed suicide because of the extreme harassment on the internet. To protect our children from this we need to set clear guidelines to insure that they are not victims of or do not participate in bulling.

Extreme Views

Children are extremely impressionable. That combined with the extreme views on the internet make for a toxic combination. Parental controls can help filter some of this information, but nothing is full proof. Insure that your child has a clear understanding of your morals and realizes the dangers lurking on the internet.

How You Can Protect Your Child

Internet Contract

Creating an internet contract with your child is the first step in protecting them from internet dangers. It is easy to assume that your child understands what you expect of them when it comes to internet use, but you can only be certain of this if you have clearly outlined the rules. You can find a very user friendly internet contract at: http://wiredkids.org/resources/documents//safesurf_agreement.html.

Parental Control Software

Parental Control Software can do everything from spying on every word your child types and every website they visit, to blocking certain websites. This software can even limit the length of time your child plays online. According to ConsumerReports.org, Safe Eyes 2005 rated on the top for parental control software. It was rated number one for its level of protection and minimal interruptions.[2][2] To learn more about parental blocking software, check out http://www.internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/. While parental control software is a good idea, nothing is full proof. Determine what features you want to use to protect your child, and then research the different products. This will make your selection much easier. Many internet providers include free parental controls that will allow you to block inappropriate websites.

Protecting Your Computer from Viruses

Along with protecting our kids from internet dangers, we need to protect our computer. Norton AntiVirus (http://www.symantec.com/norton/index.jspare) and AVG (http://www.avg.com/) are two virus protecting programs available on the internet. When used properly and updated they will protect your computer from viruses. When installing these programs, you can set them to automatically check for downloads when your computer boots ups. This will insure that your computer is up to date and protected.

Popular Websites

What websites are popular with kid’s changes weekly on the internet. To stay up to date parents can check recommended websites at http://www.kidsites.com/ or http://www.ala.org/greatsites. Girls tend to lean towards the social networking websites like MySpace and Facebook, while boys prefer the reality games, such as RuneScape. You won’t find websites such as MySpace and Facebook listed here, because they are geared towards older people. Unfortunately they have become very popular among teens. The main objective of these sites is to socialize and meet new people. These sites may be appropriate for older teens, but make sure that their site is set to private and that you have access, as well as the passwords to such accounts.

Two key factors when checking to see if a website is appropriate is whether they have a parental information page and if they have monitored or controlled chat. Disney’s Club Penguin allows kids to play and chat with friends or complete strangers, but the chat is monitored, preventing inappropriate information from being transferred. This site is good for kids age 6-14. RuneScape allows chat, but for users 13 and under it only allows Quick Chat, which only allows them to send preset phrases.

Browser History

In Microsoft Internet Explorer, selecting the history button will show you the websites that have been visited on your browser. This history can be cleared easily though, so a techno smart kid can easily keep things hid from their parents. This is where a parental control program that logs your computer history comes in handy. Many people use these to “spy” on their kids, but if you are expecting open and honesty from your kids, you should do the same. Let them know you installed this software to keep them safe.

With online chat and text messaging, kids have created their own short hand. With entire conversations consisting of phrases such OMG (oh my god) and GTG (got to go) it is hard to decipher this new language. Fortunately there is a website that can translate these acronyms for you, http://acronyms.thefreedictionary.com/.

As parents, there is a lot we need to do to protect our child. Fortunately, we can use the same tool to learn more about protecting them.

For more information check out these websites:

http://websafety4kids.org/Statistics.php

http://www.ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/jjjournal/jjjournal598/net.html

http://wiredkids.org/

http://www.symantec.com/norton/library/familyresource/article.jsp?aid=fr_safesites

www.askjeeves.com

http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm

http://www.netsmartz.org/index.aspx.

http://www.kidsites.com/

http://www.ala.org/greatsites

http://www.mumsnet.com/

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[1] http://websafety4kids.org/Statistics.php

[2] http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cu-press-room/pressroom/archive/2005/06/eng0506sof.htm?resultPageIndex=1&resultIndex=2&searchTerm=parental%20controls

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