Now that schools are finishing up for the year, thousands of kids will be surfing the Internet to fill idle time during the summer months. Although the Internet is a great tool for children to learn and explore in areas not covered by our education system, left alone it can also produce inappropriate material and individuals looking to exploit your kids.
The numbers of children being abused online are frightening. According to NetAlert, 20% (one in five) using the Internet has been approached online by a stranger, and nearly half of all kids have been exposed to material that is pornographic, sexually explicit, violent, hateful, or encourage the participation in illegal and dangerous activities.
A recent survey conducted by the Department of Justice, one in five children received unwelcome sexual overtures online, and an increasing number of cases of pedophiles using online communities as a way to gain young person’s confidence and ultimately arrange face to face meetings; commonly known as ‘online grooming.’
These criminals are using all the typical tools that other online miscreants use including spam/phishing e-mails, accessing child chat rooms and social networks, and misspelled or misleading domain names to lure kids in and trap them. If your kids are online, you must take time to educate and protect them from the dangers that lurk around the cyber-corner. Here are 3 things you should be doing now to for online safety for your kids:
- Install software to filter their email and web browsing activity to prevent your children from viewing inappropriate material. A good packags offered on http://www.bsecure.com/ costs less than $50 and for up to 3 computers. Another option that would also protect iPads, iPods, iPads, and other tablets while using at home is http://www.cyberoam.com/netgenie.html. Not only will they keep the crap off your computer, but it will also stop inappropriate spam from reaching your kids.
- Communicate with your kids about safe computing online and proper Internet usage. Set some guidelines on when they can use the internet and what they can do. Discuss the dangers of chatting with strangers or downloading suspicious files. Many times these files will contain malware that will be used to exploit or blackmail your kids. Watch my webinar on Cyber Security where I discuss a real world story about this.
- Your kids should get a set of rules to follow when using the Internet. Its not enough just to tell them what risks there are. These sick individuals know how to hide their true selves and gain a child’s confidence to arrange a face to face. Here is list of rules for kids to follow online:
- I will not give out personal information such as my address, birth-date, telephone number, parents’ work address or telephone number to anyone online.
- I will not give out the name and location of the school I attend to anyone online.
- I will tell my parents right away if I see a web site, e-mail, or message that makes me feel uncomfortable or I feel is inappropriate.
- I will never send my picture to anyone online, or upload my picture to any web site without my parents knowledge and permission.
- I will never agree to meet someone face to face that I met online without my parents knowledge and permission
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or that make me feel uncomfortable in any way. If I get a message like that, I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.
- I will never give my parent’s financial information out to anyone, especially their credit card information, bank account information, or social security number.
For more information on how to keep your children safe online visit http://www.safekids.com and http://www.netsmartz.org/internetsafety or report activity that is potentially harmful to kids to http://www.missingkids.com/cybertipline/ This site is run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and is a great resource for parents, teachers, and guardians.