Recently, there’s been a lot of anxiety about
the safety of children while they explore the wonders of the Internet. The
tension is particularly great when social networking sites such as teenchat.com, friendster.com and myspace.com, are mentioned. With all of
the speculation as to whether or not our children are at risk for becoming
victims while using these sites, it’s a wonder they are allowed to browse
the Internet at all. Unfortunately, it’s futile to try to block all access
to the Internet. The World Wide Web is as common to this generation as
libraries once were to ours. The Internet can actually enhance your
children’s educational experience and prohibiting its use may put them at
an academic disadvantage. With that in mind, there are many ways to keep
your children safe while they explore the wonders of this useful resource.
the mystery out of surfing the net. Simply put –ask your children to
show you the “ins and outs” of surfing the net. You may be surprised by how
eager they are to show you just how much they know about computers! This
also serves a dual purpose. It serves as a learning opportunity for you and
it’s a great conversation starter that may help open to the door to the next
ASK, ASK! Ask your children about chat rooms. Ask about blogs. Ask them
to show you the sites that they frequently visit. Most importantly, ask if
they have a website on myspace, friendster, or any of the other social
networking sites. If they do, check out their website. Make sure it does
not contain identifiable information such as your child’s name, age,
address, city of residence, school name, etc. On sites such as MySpace,
kids can post pictures of themselves, biographies, where they like to hang
out, names and photos of their friends, email addresses, cell phone numbers,
and much more. All of this information in the wrong hands could lead to
rules with your children about Internet use. Talk with your children
about what they can and cannot do online. Be reasonable and set reasonable
expectations. Try to understand their needs, interests, and curiosity, but
set definite parameters.
the amount of time allowed each day on the Internet.
Chat Room Rules. Talk to them about the kind of information they should
never release, such as full name, address, phone numbers, email address,
school information, sports teams, or any other information that could allows
someone track them down. Teach them that when they’re talking with someone
in a chat room or instant message (IM) session, they are interacting with a
stranger unless they are positive they really know that person in the “real”
world. Also, it is very important that your child does not provide their
account password to anyone, including friends!
Not Meet in Person. It’s dangerous to get together with someone you
first “meet” online. Remember, people are not always who they seem to be.
If your child insists on meeting up with someone they met online, insist on
being there during the meeting. The meeting should take place in a public
area such as a restaurant and at a reasonable hour. At least you will have
some idea as to the actual age, gender, and demeanor of the person your
child met online.
out blocking, filtering, and ratings applications. There are services
that rate web sites for content. There are also filtering programs and
browsers that empower parents to block the types of sites they consider to
be inappropriate. These programs work in different ways. Some block sites
known to contain objectionable material. Some prevent users from entering
certain types of information such as their name and address. Others keep
your children away from chat rooms or restrict their ability to send or
read e-mail. It’s important to realize that filtering programs cannot
protect your child from all online dangers.
the computer in a central location. Put it somewhere that you can
monitor their activities (kitchen, living room, family room). Also, keep in
mind there are many other locations besides your home that have Internet
access. Most cell phones, PDAs, and local libraries, allow access to the
up. This is where it all comes together. If you don’t follow up, or
check up on your children once in a while, you will never know if they are
following your rules. Surprise them while they are actually online. Check
the computer history to see which sites they visited recently. If they know
you will check on them, they may be less likely to risk getting caught on a
site where they don’t belong.
I wish I could say that the above guidelines
will absolutely prevent you or your child from becoming a victim.
Unfortunately, there are no rules that will give you this ironclad
assurance. Using simple logic and common sense is still your best bet to
For more information about Internet safety, teen
safety, identity theft, and other similar topics, call the Community
Relations Office at 732/669-3612.
Medical Emergencies Dial 9-1-1
Police Non-Emergency Dial