Monday, June 13, 2011

How Kids Can Stay Safe on the Internet

In 2005, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution designating June “National Internet Safety Month”. The resolution asked safety organizations, educators, law enforcement, civic leaders, parents and others to increase awareness of safe online practices. National Internet Safety Month focuses on ensuring that everyone who utilizes the Internet, including families, parents and children, understands the dangers posed by and uses the Internet as safely as possible.
Allowing kids to go online without supervision or ground rules is like allowing them to explore a major metropolitan area by themselves. The Internet, like a city, offers an enormous array of entertainment and educational resources but also presents some potential risks. Kids need help navigating this world.

You can’t watch your kids every minute, but you do need to use strategies to help them benefit from the Internet and avoid its potential risks. By exploring the Internet with your kids, you greatly expand its capacity as an educational tool. By providing guidance and discussion along the way, you increase kids’ online skills and confidence along with their ability to avoid potential risks. And you might be surprised by what kids teach you at the same time.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 23 percent of nursery school children in the United States use the Internet, 32 percent of kindergartners go online, and by high school 80 percent of children use the Internet.

Browsing the Internet…

Browsing the Internet is like having the world’s largest library and entertainment system at your fingertips. Kids are able to read stories, tour museums, visit other countries, play games, look at photographs, shop, and do research to help with homework.

Potential Risks
·         It is hard for kids to distinguish reliable sources of information from less reliable ones. Some believe because information is posted online it must be true.
·         Kids may come across websites containing adult images or demeaning, racist, sexist, violent, or false information.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
·         Choose search engines carefully. Some are specifically designed for kids, and others offer kid-safe options.
·         Tell kids when they come across any material making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused to immediately tell you or another trusted adult.
·         Help kids find information online. By searching the Internet together you help them find reliable sources of information and distinguish fact from fiction.

Using E-mail…

Adults and kids use e-mail to communicate rapidly and cost-effectively with people all over the world. E-mail transmits messages, documents, and photographs to others in a matter of seconds or minutes.

Potential Risks
·         Anyone using e-mail is vulnerable to receiving “spam,” messages from people or companies encouraging recipients to buy something, do something, or visit a particular website. Spam may be sexually suggestive or offensive in other ways.
·         Kids are able to set up private accounts through free Web-based, e-mail services without asking permission from parents or guardians.
·         Senders sometimes disguise themselves, pretending to be someone else — a friend or acquaintance, a well-known bank, a government agency — for illicit purposes. This is known as phishing.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
·         Talk with your kids about their e-mail accounts, and discuss the potential risks involved. Remind them to never share passwords with anyone but you, not even their closest friends.
·         Before you sign up with a service provider, research the effectiveness of its spam filters. You may also purchase spam-filter software separately.
·         Teach kids not to open spam or e-mails from people they don’t know in person. Remind them not to respond to any online communication in a sexually provocative way. Ask them to show you suspicious communications.
·         If your kids receive e-mail containing threats or material making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused, report it to your service provider. Your provider’s address is usually found on their home page.

Social Networking…

Social-networking websites allow kids to connect with their friends and other users with similar interests. Kids socialize and express themselves by exchanging instant messages, e-mails, or comments and posting photographs, creative writing, artwork, videos, and music to their blogs and personal profiles. Some 55% of online teens have profiles on a social-networking website such as Facebook or MySpace.

A survey of 10 to 17 year olds revealed 34% had posted their real names, telephone numbers, home addresses, or the names of their schools online where anyone could see; 45% had posted their dates of birth or ages; and 18% had posted pictures of themselves.

Potential Risks
·         Some websites and services ask users to post a “profile” with their age, sex, hobbies, and interests. While these profiles help kids “connect” and share common interests, potential exploiters may pretend to be someone else and can and do use these profiles to search for victims.
·         Kids sometimes compete to see who has the greatest number of contacts and will add new members to their lists even if they don’t know them in person.
·         Kids can’t “take back” the online text and images they’ve entered. Kids may post information and images that are provocative and inappropriate. Once online, “chat” as well as other Web postings become public information. Anything posted online may be saved and forwarded to an unlimited number of users. Remind kids once images are posted they lose control of them and can never get them back.
·         Kids have been reprimanded by their school administrators and families; denied entry into schools; and even not hired because of dangerous, demeaning, or harmful information found on their personal websites or blogs.

Tips to Minimize Potential Risks
·         Urge kids to use privacy settings to restrict access to profiles so only those on their contact lists are able to view them.
·         Remind kids to only add people they know in person to their contact lists.
·         Encourage them to choose appropriate screen names or nicknames — such as those that refer to sports and interests, but are not sexual, violent, or offensive. Make sure the name doesn’t include information revealing their identity or location.
·         Visit social-networking websites with your kids, and exchange ideas about what you think is safe and unsafe.
·         Ask your kids about the people they are communicating with online.
·         Insist your kids never give out personal information or arrange to meet in person with someone they’ve met online without first checking with you.
·         Encourage your kids to think before typing, “Is this message hurtful or rude?” Also urge your kids not to respond to any rude or harassing messages or ones making them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Have them show you such messages.

Because we use the Internet in different ways, kids and adults may learn from each other. By talking about Internet use with your kids, you are opening the door to discussing the important issues of personal safety and helping them engage in responsible behavior.

1 comment:

  1. After we had our cheap cable internet, we immediately enable the parental control feature to make sure our ids can only browse the good sites.