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Child Safety Online

In today’s modern world, it is difficult for parents to ensure that their children can safely engage in online activity. The daily news is rife with reports of internet predators. Underage internet users are often unaware of the malicious intent of online acquaintances or sites with which they interact.

The Internet is an excellent information source available at all hours, day and night. It is also a place where younger people find the opportunity to socialize, interact with others who have similar interests, and feel they find understanding and acceptance.

There is also a downside to the Internet. It can increase children's exposure to people with nefarious stellar intentions. Most of us have heard stories about identity theft, hacking, and children who fall victim to someone who stalked them via chat rooms or other online sites.

What can parents do to help protect their children?

Home Computers

Parents can ensure that the home computer provides safeguards.

  • Keep computers in the family room rather than the child’s bedroom. It is more difficult for offenders to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to other family members.
  • Research applications that provide filtering, blocking or website ratings in order to provide adequate content control.
  • Initiate acquaintances with your child’s online friends, just as you would their other friends. Anonymous internet contacts may not always be what they seem. Someone who represents himself as a twelve-year-old girl may actually be a fifty-year-old man.
  • For parents who have children with cellular phones including Internet access, talk to them about safe usage, and be sure to monitor the phone records.

Away from Home

Parents should also be aware that the home computer is not the only way for their children to access the Internet. They can also use the unmonitored computer at a friend’s house, their school, the public library, a club or even a coffee house. In addition, there are game consoles that have the ability to connect to the Internet, along with handheld devices such as mobile phones. For these reasons, it is very important to conduct open communication with your child in order to form a good foundation for those times when you cannot be with them.

  • Talk to your child about potential online dangers and sexual victimization.
  • Teach your children about responsible use of online resources. The online experience is far more than just chat rooms.
  • Talk to your child’s school, friends, and public library about safeguards that are in place if your child were to gain Internet access when you are not there to monitor their activity.
  • Teach your children the following:
    • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with anyone they meet online unless a parent is present.
    • Never upload personally identifiable pictures. Pictures are easily altered and can be widely broadcast in ways they may not like.
    • Never provide any personal information such as real name, phone number, address, social security number, school name, etc
    • Make sure their screen name does not reveal too much about themselves (do not use, name, age, hometown, etc.)
    • Never download pictures as they could contain sexually explicit images.
    • Never respond to any type of messages or postings that are uncomfortable, obscene, suggestive, or in any way harassing.
    • Not everything they see or read online is true.
    • Never post information they would not want others to see. They need to realize that once they post it, they cannot take it back. Even if they try to delete it, older versions can always exist out in cyberspace.
    • Flirting with strangers online can have very serious consequences. Many people lie about who they are. You may never really know with whom you are interacting.
    • Trust your gut feelings and report any suspicions. Immediately notify a parent, another adult, someone they trust, or even the police know if they feel threatened or uncomfortable about any online activity. Prompt notification could prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

Additional Resources

Visit Teen Safety on the Information Highway at http://www.safeteens.com/ or call toll free to order a hard copy of the brochure at 800.843.5678. This site and publication are sponsored by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com; www.netsmartz.org). They also have a CyberTipline at http://cybertipline.com/.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following sites (listed in alphabetical order) that contain tips and information from the federal government and the technology industry:

GetNetWise — www.getnetwise.org

GetNetWise is a public service sponsored by Internet industry corporations and public interest organizations to help ensure that Internet users have safe, constructive, and educational or entertaining online experiences. The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be just "one click away" from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their and their family's use of the Internet.

Internet Keep Safe Coalition — www.iKeepSafe.org

iKeepSafe.org, home of Faux Paw the Techno Cat, is a coalition of 49 governors/first spouses, law enforcement, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other associations dedicated to helping parents, educators, and caregivers by providing tools and guidelines to teach children the safe and healthy use of technology. The organization's vision is to see generations of children worldwide grow up safely using technology and the Internet.

i-SAFE — www.i-safe.org

Founded in 1998 and endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting the online experiences of youth everywhere. i-SAFE incorporates classroom curriculum with dynamic community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and concerned adults to make the Internet a safer place. Join them today in the fight to safeguard children's online experience.

National Crime Prevention Council — www.ncpc.org; www.mcgruff.org

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) is a private, nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to enable people to create safer and more caring communities by addressing the causes of crime and violence and reducing the opportunities for crime to occur. NCPC addresses Internet Safety with kids and parents through www.mcgruff.org and public service advertising under the National Citizens' Crime Prevention Campaign — symbolized by McGruff the Crime Dog® and his "Take A Bite Out Of Crime®."

National Cyber Security Alliance — www.staysafeonline.org

NCSA is a non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to empower home users, small businesses, and schools, colleges, and universities to stay safe online. A public-private partnership, NCSA members include the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Trade Commission, and many private-sector corporations and organizations.

staysafe — www.staysafe.org

staysafe.org is an educational site intended to help consumers understand both the positive aspects of the Internet as well as how to manage a variety of safety and security issues that exist online.

Wired Safety — www.wiredsafety.org

WiredSafety.org is an Internet safety and help group. Comprised of unpaid volunteers around the world, WiredSafety.org provides education, assistance, and awareness on all aspects of cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security, and responsible technology use. It is also the parent group of Teenangels.org, FBI-trained teens and preteens who promote Internet safety.

These helpful tips provided by Digital Defense, Inc., a computer security company working with your credit union as a responsible member of the community to help insure the privacy and security of our nation's financial information.

 


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