The Internet has certainly spawned tons of new ways for kids to seek out information or to be entertained. Yet it has also been connected to the rise in the Internet predator, which is a person or persons who would attempt to harm children either online or in person. It is very important that parents, teachers and other caregivers find out how to protect kids from these predators.
Perhaps one of the easiest things an Internet predator can do is exploit the fact that kids tend to know more about being online that do their parents. If kids have online access at home, school or even in the library, parents should share the same amount of knowledge. Some things parents should know how to do include learning how to block personal messages and install blocking software. Parents should also be aware of where kids go when they’re online, and don’t expect that kid friendly sites are always completely safe, or that if an Internet history shows no activity, kids haven’t been surfing everywhere.
First off, most kids learn easily how to clear the history on their web browser. If the history is cleared, you should assume that kids have been where they shouldn’t. Do not permit surfing that involves clearing of the web browser, and check this browser periodically to make sure all sites a child visits are logged. Visit the sites to be certain they are not potentially dangerous ones.
An Internet predator is likely to take advantage of kids who post a great deal of information online. Even though it’s cool to have MySpace® or Facebook® pages, kids should probably avoid having them, since they post pictures, and may indiscriminately post information that could show their location. Children using the Internet should also agree to never enter a private chat with someone they don’t know, even if they think they know this person. Like predators in the outside world, an Internet predator will do everything he or she can to make a child like him or her, or to give up locating information. Children should also be warned that they should never talk about their age, gender, or location, even if they believe this information is going to someone they know. Even seemingly innocent information such as the name of their soccer team or their school can give an internet predator enough information to find them.
Probably the single most important way a child can avoid an Internet predator is by using computers only in front of parents or educators. They should never be allowed to be online when they can’t be supervised, and a condition of Internet use should be that kids understand this isn’t private. Parents should be able to look over the shoulder of any child using the Internet and ask as may questions as they want. In general, this means children should not have computers in their room or other private areas of the house. It may seem difficult for parents to be the “bad guys” in this respect, and parents will probably get some complaints from kids. These complaints are a small price to pay for keeping kids secure online.
Parents should also reserve the right to shut down communication with any other user that appears to be acting in a strange or ingratiating way. Questions about location or gender should be viewed with suspicion, and kids should get that parents have the right to end contact with another user. Other signs that a child may be in contact with an Internet predator include kid’s mentioning names of adults or teens the parent doesn’t know, or of attempting to get online in private. Keep the line of communication open with kids regarding Internet usage, and let them know this is a privilege and not a right, and that kids need to act responsibly and within safety guidelines in order to retain this privilege.