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Internet safety for children

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This is one of my old blog posts from 2006 (before Facebook), which still has a lot of good, useful points for all parents to know regarding the safety of their children on the Internet:

http://www.kenreiss.com/InternetSafety_KReiss/InternetSafety_KReiss.html

Enjoy!
Ken.


Internet Safety
Ken Reiss

Part I: The Problem

Why isn’t the Internet Safe?
– Access
– Anonymity
– Allure
– Assumptions
– Avoidance

1 out of 5 kids have been solicited sexually online. 1 out of 17 kids have been harassed, threatened, or bullied online. One third of kids have been contacted by a stranger and half of these were considered inappropriate. Most kids will not report inappropriate Internet contact to their parents because they are afraid of losing Internet privileges. 9 out of 10 parents will never know that any inappropriate contact has occurred.

Problem #1: Access

– Access to the Internet is easy
– Prevalent: The Internet today is as much a part of every-day life for children as food, shelter, and clothing
– Kids are nonchalant about using the Internet – it has been around as long as they can remember!
– Children can very easily be exposed to inappropriate written content/images, bad behavior, unsuitable friends, and Internet predators online

There is a paradigm gap between today’s children and their parents perception of the Internet. 70 MILLION children go ONLINE EVERY DAY! 1 out of 4 are solicited in some way!!

Problem #2: Anonymity

– Children think their actions on the Internet are safe
– Predators know that kids often are not monitored and trusting
– People think that what they do on the Internet isn’t real
– Some Internet culture actually encourages deception and alter-egos

Problem #3: Allure

– The Internet is exciting to kids
– Peer pressure
– Kids want to join and be part of a group
– Most online social networks are dangerous and deceptive and encourage dishonest, untrustworthy, and risky behavior

Kids WANT TO BE PART OF SOMETHING, especially 12-16 yrs old. Examples of typical social networks: Family, Church, School, and Clubs (boy scouts, girl scouts, etc.) What do we value in a social network: Honesty, Openness, Trust, Safety, and Nourishing. Many Online Social Networks (i.e. MySpace, etc) violate these values by requiring kids to lie to join, sharing who you are, you put yourself at risk, can’t build trust when you can’t really know who you’re talking to Story after story of kids hurt by people they met at these sites

Visit: www.TheDeadKidsOfMySpace.com if you don’t think this is an issue!!! Read some of the writeups on there! After reading this site for 20 minutes, you’ll completely understand the risk and feel compelled to do something about it!! Webkins!

Problem #4: Assumptions

– Parents assume that the Internet is safe and benign
– Easily assumed that everything on the internet is legal, moral, or ethical
– People assume that the person they are talking to on the Internet is who they say they are
– Many people assume the Internet is monitored in some way

Using the Internet, the most heinous criminal is effectively closer to your children than the person sitting next to them now! And they are available to them 24/7!

Problem #5: Avoidance

– It is easily assumed that bad things only happen to other people
– Often parents don’t know as much about computers or the Internet, so they defer to their children
– Having a discussion with your child may be uncomfortable
– It takes time and responsibility to understand and address this problem

Part II: The SOLUTION!

– Parental Involvement
– Awareness
– Control Access
– Monitor Usage
– Become the Solution

SOLUTION #1: Parental Involvement

– Get involved in your child’s life
– Commit to helping your child stay safe online
– Move all computers to central, open locations
– Insist on being aware of your child’s online activities
– Require your child to read and sign an Internet Usage Agreement, such as the one found at http://www.komando.com/kids/

Parents are still parents, when their children are online! You wouldn’t allow your child to walk alone down the streets of new york city at night – Why would you allow them to wander around the Internet? Be willing to ban certain areas of the internet, including chat rooms, social networks, and peer-to-peer services. Parents: Get yourself your OWN MySpace.com account – See with your own eyes the things your child(ren) are being exposed to! Get your children involved in local clubs, where you can meet those involved fact-to-face.

SOLUTION #2: Awareness

– Dedicate time to learn about technology
– Learn about the online dangers and discuss them with your children
– Help your children understand the very real and extreme dangers and risks
– Read and discuss some true stories regarding Internet dangers with your children
– Insist on moral and ethical behavior online

TRUST! Work together as a family!

SOLUTION #3: Control Access

– Use an ISP that offers some form of parental controls
– Install software that blocks access, like CYBERsitter ($39.95)
– Meet all your child’s friends in person and don’t allow your child to spend time with any strangers either online or in-person
– Don’t allow any peer-to-peer software on your child’s computer

You wouldn’t leave your front door wide open with a sign saying “Come on in”? That’s what you’re doing when you’re in the Internet without following these suggestions

SOLUTION #4: Monitor Usage

– Install a stealth monitoring program, like Spector Pro ($99.95)
– – It watches every email, chat, IM, website and keystroke
– – It sends this information to your Email address and even includes screenshots
– – It is undetectable by the computer user
– Randomly review the content of you’re the computer your child uses, including Email, chat logs, and downloads

Tell your kids that you will be reviewing their content, per the agreement they signed

SOLUTION #5: Become the Solution

– If you suspect any online dangers to your children, contact your local police or the FBI immediately!
– Talk about this issue of Internet safety with family, friends, co-workers, teachers, and the parents of your children’s friends
– Join an online safety organization, like http://www.WiredSafety.org
– Encourage your children to join an online safety organization, like http://www.TeenAngels.org
– Encourage all child-centric organizations you know to discuss and educate parents on this issue

Summary

– The Internet is a powerful tool, but it be just as easily used for evil as it can for good
– It’s up to YOU to decide what you’ll allow into your home
– Take the time understand and address the problem TODAY, while you can!
– It’s easier than you think!

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