The Internet is an expansive resource that can enhance our lives and bring us closer together, but it can also be used by some groups or individuals as a means to make contact with others in order to commit various types of crimes, including the exploitation of children. Instead of unplugging from the Internet in order to keep our children safe there are steps that can be taken to make the virtual world safer for their navigation.
Establish when and where a child may go online. Discuss the sites that they are allowed to visit and what their expected activity will be on that site. Does the site have blogging features? Can the child chat with others on the site? Does the site have any security measures to monitor the people who use the site?
Go to the sites with the child. Get to know the tools and capabilities of each site visited and learn how to use them.
The home computer is not the only device that can pose a threat to the child during its use. Be proactive and research any digital device before placing it in the child’s hand. Some devices that a parent may believe just plays games, may, in fact, have wireless capabilities or the power to browse the Internet. These devices may also contain integrated webcams, capable of capturing images and sharing them with anyone with an internet connection. Game consoles are becoming much more powerful and can perform more duties than simply gaming. A child may be vulnerable to contact with anyone searching the Internet looking to make contact with a child while using a gaming console.
Talk to your child often about their Internet habits. A little research on how to search history and Internet use by the child will help a parent keep track of the child’s internet habits and the sites they visit. If there is something concerning in the child’s history, discuss it, talk about personal safety and why it is important to keep personal information private.
If there has been any suspicious activity that may put the child in danger, report it. A report can be made to the website, to the service provider in the case of a cell phone, or to law enforcement or to www.cybertipline.com.
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