Read these 9 Child Protection Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Child Protection tips and hundreds of other topics.
Many parents are surprised to discover that children as young as seven and eight years old are entering chat rooms or using the IM (instant messaging) feature on their computers. With preteens and teens, this is a common occurrence. Children no longer spend hours on the phone chatting with a friend. Instead, they can talk to any number of friends by visiting a chat room or instant messaging, and this is their preferred source of communicating.
Go over the following tips with your child to help her protect herself from online predators.
* Never give out any personal information, including a name, phone number, password, picture, address, and school name.
* Do not enter a chat room unless you have permission from your parents.
* Do not respond to instant messages from people you don't know.
* Never meet a person who has contacted you online without your parent along.
Today, the Internet offers parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement a wide range of child safety resources that they can use to educate and keep children safe. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children gives some of the most thorough and comprehensive information.
This Website offers links to other sites, such as NetSmartz and gives safety tips for children and teens. This child safety resource also offers safety publications for parents to use in educating their children, as well as information regarding Code Adam and Amber Alerts.
Keep the following child protection tips in mind as you attempt to protect your child or children.
* Keep your computer in a well-used area of the house, such as the kitchen, den, or living room, so that you can easily monitor your child's activity on a consistent basis.
* Periodically check the history of your computer to view your child's activities online.
* Make use of the parental controls and filters that are offered by your Internet service provider.
* Teach your children to never give out personal information over the Internet.
* Block instant messaging from people whom your child doesn't know.
* Caution your children about the risk of chat rooms, and limit or deny their access.
While the Internet is easily accessible to children of all ages, many parents aren't familiar enough with the risks that relate to online Web browsing. We must protect our children from online predators and Internet risks, but what are we protecting them from?
* Pornography- In many instances, children innocently type in a word on a particular search engine only to be taken to an explicit site.
* Web Blogs, Diaries, etc.- Websites such as MySpace and FaceBook are prowling grounds for online predators. They search out unsuspecting and vulnerable children, and they attempt to contact their next victim.
* Chat Rooms- Children have easy access to all types of chat rooms in which they can be contacted by virtually anyone!
Before we can protect our children, we must educate ourselves!
While many parents are concerned about their children's online activities, most of them don't know all of the safety tools that are available for use with the computer. Check out the following safety tools, and become familiar with them in order to protect your kids from online predators!
* You can take advantage of any filters your ISP (Internet Service Provider) offers. AOL and others offer parental controls that can limit or restrict children's access to chat rooms, e-mails, etc. Keep in mind, however, that kids are pretty computer savvy. Your child may be able to disable or change the controls you have set!
* You can also purchase software which not only blocks access to certain sites, but also alerts you to inappropriate content and language.
* You can use a closed secure system. What this means is that your child will only be able to access predetermined Websites. It is very limiting, but it is also the safest option.
* You can purchase software which not only filters or blocks inappropriate content but also gives you access to the content that has been accessed so that you can see what your child has been doing on the computer.
When should I begin letting my child have access to the Internet? This is a common question that many parents ask. What is the right answer? Actually, the right answer depends on a lot of factors, and the most important goal is protecting children online.
* Where is your computer located?
* What is the age of your child?
* What will your child be using the computer for?
* How much are you willing to supervise your child?
* How much does your child know about surfing the Web?
If your child is a pre-schooler to early elementary age, probably the only reason for him to use the computer is to take advantage of educational software. This means that Internet access probably isn't necessary. As your child reaches the pre-teen ages of eight to twelve however, the pressure to communicate with friends and the necessity to do certain amounts of research for school will inevitably raise the need for online access.
Recognizing these needs, parents should continue to monitor their children's online activities, whether they are eight or 18 years of age. Parents should also continuously talk with their children about their online activities and Internet hazards.
As you begin looking for an ISP (Internet Service Provider), you'll want to check out the child safety resources that they offer. Protecting children is of utmost importance as they use the Internet, and many ISPs offer at least some means of doing this, usually by offering blocking and filtering features.
Before you sign up with an ISP, ask yourself the following questions about this provider. Keep in mind that the answers you get can go a long way towards protecting your child.
* Does the ISP offer instant messaging?
* Can IMs be blocked?
* Can I create a list of approved IMs for my child?
* Does the ISP have chat rooms?
* Can the chat rooms be limited or blocked?
* Are the chat rooms monitored?
* Does the ISP offer buddy lists which list who is online?
* Can this list be blocked?
* Can certain e-mails be blocked if necessary?
* Does the ISP have online profiles?
* Does it offer an address list?
* Can a parent keep a child's screen name from being listed?
* What parental controls are offered?
There are several steps you can take to help protect your child from child molesters and sexual offenders. Of course you should continue to check sex offender lists in your area on a regular basis, but you also need to protect your children in other ways.
* Don't leave your children unsupervised even for just a few seconds! You might be tempted to let your child be alone in a section of a store, in your yard, in a park, in your vehicle, etc. It only takes a few seconds for a child to be abducted, so don't leave them!
* Don't allow your child to walk home from school unsupervised.
* If your child is at a neighbor's house playing with a friend, ask that neighbor to call you before he or she sends your child home so that you can come and get your child.
* Don't drop your child off at a park to play with other children alone.
* Don't let your child play at video arcades in stores or malls without you.
Exerting a level of independence is a right of passage for most teenagers.
This issue of privacy will become very important as it centers around the use of the Internet. It is imperative that you continue to caution your child about the risks of Internet usage and monitor her computer activities.
Continue to check the history on your computer and stress the following points to your teen. In doing so you are protecting your child!
* Never give out personal information online!
* Remind her that people may not be who they say they are!
* Report inappropriate behavior to your Internet Service Provider.
* If you suspect any type of pornographic behavior, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
Remember these tips:
* Don't let your child have her own computer in her room.
* Keep the computer in an area that is used often, such as the den, dining room, kitchen, or study.
* Consider installing monitoring software that tracks Internet activity.
* Periodically check to make sure that the parental controls you have set haven't been changed.
* Talk with your teen about what she is doing online.
Protecting kids from online predators is a daily job for parents, guardians, and educators!
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|