Parents As Internet Partners
Online Safety

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Millions of people use the Internet or World Wide Web because it is open to anyone. Unfortunately, there may be some people who may use the Internet inappropriately or even criminally. There may be inappropriate information and material on the Internet that can be harmful to children. Therefore, it is important for parents to teach their children to use the Internet safely.

Picture of Safety SignGuidelines for Parents

You should learn to use the Internet yourself. You cannot effectively supervise your children's Internet use if you don't know how to use it yourself.

Participate in your child's use of the Internet so you can be aware of where your child goes online. You may need to steer your child away from inappropriate sites or discuss disturbing information on the Internet.

Make Internet use a family activity whenever possible. Put the computer in the living room, kitchen, or family room so you can keep an eye on your child's Internet use.

Encourage your child to share his or her Internet experiences with you. If your child encounters something disturbing on the Internet, he or she should feel comfortable about reporting it to you.

Monitor the amount of time your child spends online. Excessive time on the Internet, especially late at night, may be a sign of a potential problem.

Discuss with your child what topics on the Internet that you consider off-limits. Set the rules for your child's Internet use. Make sure your child knows the consequences for breaking these rules.

Remember that your teen is also vulnerable to online predators. They are at risk because they often use the Internet unsupervised and participate in chat rooms, e-mailing, and other online communications. So don't forget to keep an eye on your teen's Internet use.

If you feel your situation warrants it, consider parental control software or filtering software for your personal home computer. Parental control software, such as CyberPatrol (http://www.cyberpatrol.com), Cybersitter (http://www.cybersitter.com), Net Nanny (http://www.netnanny.com), and We-Blocker (http://www.we-blocker.com), blocks access to web sites with content that may be deemed inappropriate for children by the software company. The effectiveness of these products varies since no filter can keep up with the daily growth of Internet sites. Also, some filtering software may block your child from accessing legitimate and helpful websites.
 
 

Picture of Safety SignA Note about Chat Rooms

Chat rooms are places on the Internet where you can talk to other people on the Internet by typing messages online. Because chat is in "real time" or "live," everyone who is in the chat room sees your message as soon as you send it and can respond to your message just as quickly. This is one of the most popular things for kids, especially teens, to do online. Because they sign in with screen names, kids feel comfortable talking with other kids in chat rooms. Sometimes they make legitimate online friends with other kids who share similar interests or hobbies.

Unfortunately, Internet predators are often lurking in chat rooms. Using a screen name, they pretend to be a child or a teen and try to become friends with kids that they feel may be vulnerable or can be manipulated. A predator will try to get your child to reveal more private information about him/herself, to ask your child to send a photograph, to ask for a telephone number or address to make further contact, to meet with your child, etc.

Remind your child or teen that any time he or she feels uncomfortable about something on the Internet that he or she should talk to you about it. If your child or teen receives pornographic or lewd photographs on the Internet, you should be told. If you suspect that your child has been contacted by an Internet predator, contact the authorities. Childnet has a website that focuses on the dangers of chat rooms, "How to Keep Safe in Chat Rooms" (http://www.chatdanger.com/) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (http://www.ncmec.org/) has several useful publications on Internet safety that you can download from its website.
 
 

Picture of Safety Sign Rules for Safe Internet Use to Share with Your Child

Never given out personal information to someone you meet on the Internet. Use only your first name when posting notes and sending messages online. Do not share your home address, phone number, age, race, school name or location, or friends' names.

Never share a password, even with friends.

Never agree to meet someone you meet online without parental permission. When, and if, you do arrange a meeting, make it in a public place and be accompanied by your parent.

Never respond to messages that you make you uneasy or uncomfortable. Or, if someone is persistent about asking you for personal information, ignore the sender, end the conversation, and let your parent or an adult know about the occurrence.

Never respond to e-mails from people you don't know. Many unsolicited e-mails contain sexually explicit or inappropriate messages.

Remember that people online may not be who they say they are. Some people may misrepresent themselves online to encourage you to continue to communicate with them, to try to get personal information from you, or even to lure you into meeting them. A child predator will try to become your "friend" by pretending to share your hobbies and interests to gain your trust.

Remember that everything you read online may not be true. For example, you may be told that you have won a prize and you need to send your name and address to claim it. This may only be a trick to get information from you.
 

Picture of Safety Sign Who Is Mary Green?

Here is an exercise on Online Safety to share with your child. Click on the link to Mary Green and see if you can guess who she is.
 
 

Picture of Safety SignMore Information on Online Safety

GetNetWise has a "Online Safety Guide" (http://www.getnetwise.org/safetyguide/) for all age groups, starting with ages 2-4. Lawrence J. Magid's "Child Safety on the Information Highway" (http://www.safekids.com/child_safety.htm) includes "My Rules for Online Safety" for parents who want to adapt it for their children. "A Safety Net for the Internet : A Parent's Guide" (http://www.nypl.org/branch/safety.html) from the New York Public Library may be helpful to parents too. You may want to check out "Cybersafe Kids : A Parent's Guide" (http://www.ncpc.org/10adu12.htm) from the National Crime Prevention Council.

In addition, the Nassau Library System has published an informative pamphlet, Parent's Internet Guide : Searching Wisely and Safely, which includes "Tips for Parents," "Kid's Pledge," "Teen's Pledge," and "Parent's Pledge" to encourage online safety. (Contact Crystal Faris, Youth Services Manager, Nassau Library System, 900 Jerusalem Avenue, Uniondale, NY 11553, (516) 292-8920, ext. 230, or cfaris@nassaulibrary.org to request a copy of this guide. Or, you can download a copy from http://www.nassaulibrary.org/parent/guide.pdf).

The Youth Internet Safety Survey, conducted by the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in 1999, found that one in 5 (19 percent) of the young Internet users surveyed received an unwanted sexual solicitation in the past year. One in 33 youth received an aggressive sexual solicitation in the past year, meaning a child predator asked the young person to meet somewhere, called him/her on the phone, and/or sent the child correspondence, money, or gifts through the U.S. Postal Service. One in 4 youths had an unwanted exposure in the past year to pictures of naked people or people having sex. One in 17 youths was threatened or harassed in the past year. If you are interested in additional information about Internet crimes, read "Internet Crimes Against Children," OVC Bulletin, May 2001, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, NCJ 184931.
 
 
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Updated : March 7, 2002
© Henry Waldinger Memorial Library, 2002.