GETTING INVOLVED IN KIDS’ ONLINE ACTIVITIES
It is important to take an active role in protecting your kids from Internet predators and inappropriate content online. To do that:
• Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material.
• Keep the computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms, where you can watch and monitor its use.
• Monitor any time spend on smartphones or tablets.
• Share an email or social media account with your child so you can monitor messages.
• Bookmark kids' favorite sites for easy access.
• Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
• Forbid your child from entering private forums; block them with safety features provided by your Internet service provider or with special filtering software.
• Be aware that posting messages to forums reveals a user's email address to others.
• Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
• Find out what, if any, online protection is offered by your child's school, after-school center, friends' homes, or any place where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
• Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange.
• Many sites use "cookies," devices that track specific information about the user, such as name, email address, and shopping preferences. Cookies can be disabled.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Forums, or chat rooms, are virtual online rooms where chat sessions take place. They're set up according to interest or subject, such as a favorite sport or TV show. Because people can communicate with each other alone or in a group, these places can be popular online destinations— especially for kids and teens. However, these sites can pose hazards for kids. Some kids have met "friends" in chat rooms who were interested in exploiting them. No one knows how common chat-room predators are, but many are known to frequent chat rooms. These predators sometimes prod their online acquaintances to exchange personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers, thus putting the kids they are chatting with — and their families — at risk.
Because there is an ever so prevalent risk of predators on the internet, it is important to ensure that children maintain safe procedures when on the Internet:
• Watch out for stranger danger! The nature of the Internet ensures that at any given moment, you can very rarely by 100% sure of who you are talking to. Someone you meet online may seem like another kid, but on the other side of the screen, he or she can be an adult preying on children. This is particularly dangerous because these attackers know how to make kids trust them and know how to act like children, so there are very often no warning signs that the person is a predator. Once the predator gains the trust of the child, they can lure them out to meet them in person and cause them harm, or convince the child to hand over valuable information. Therefore, it is extremely important to use caution when on the internet and always be aware that who you are talking to may not be who they say they are.
• Never hand out personal information online. You may come across a kid on a messaging platform that requests your address so that you can meet in person. Be alert and never hand out this information. As mentioned before, you really don't know exactly who you are talking to, and where the information could be spread to. In addition, handing out personal information online could make you a victim of child identity theft.
Set up some guidelines for your kids to use while they're online, such as:
• Never post or trade personal photographs.
• Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name or location. Use only a screen name.
• Never agree to meet anyone from a chat room or social media site in person.
• Never respond to a threatening email, message, post, or text.
• Always tell a parent about any communication or conversation that was scary.
• If your child has a new "friend," insist on being "introduced" online to that friend.