Keeping Your Kids Safe From Online Trouble
It seems the more advanced the online technology, the more trickery there is online. It may be hard to believe, but there are people who spend their time dreaming up ways to hack into strangers' computers to swipe their identities and simply wreak havoc with their files. What is even more upsetting, is that a lot of times these troublemakers target youngsters and it is not their accounts they are looking to corrupt, but the kids themselves.
What do online predators actually do?
Basically, online predators scope out internet chat rooms, message boards, emails, and instant messaging to find vulnerable children. When they find a likely target, they will contact them and do whatever it takes to capture their attention and earn their trust. For example, they will find out the child's hobbies, the kind of music they like, and they express an interest in the kid's problems at home and at school. Then as soon as they have established a relatively strong bond, they will change the nature of the conversation. The safe and mundane topics of conversation will eventually become more intimate and sexual in nature.
As a parent, how can you protect your children when they are online?
The easiest piece of advice we can give is to monitor your children's computer use whenever possible. We know that it is not possible to keep an eye on your child 24/7, so here are some additional tips:
- Tell your kids in advance about the danger of online predators. Keep an on going dialogue and encourage your entire family to ask questions about online safety.
- Keep the computer in a common area rather than in your kid's private room.
- When your child is online, take a seat next to them and watch what they are doing. If any website or email looks suspicious, divert their attention or delete the message together.
- Tell your kids not to respond to any emails or instant messages that are from strangers.
- Until your children are old enough to truly comprehend the dangers that exist online, do not let them participate in chat rooms or discussion forums.
- Likewise, until the kids are old enough, have them use a family email that you can easily monitor.
In addition to these tips, there are online tools that will help you keep your kids safe online. To find these tools check out your Internet Service Provider (also called an ISP), which often offers security devices for free. Next, try your local computer store and ask about the types of software they have that will block and filter unwanted messages and websites. And also check out your web browser, which may have parental controls that you can manually switch on and off.
Unfortunately, even if you have done everything imaginable to protect your children from online trouble, sometimes a predator will slip through the cracks. If this happens, do not blame yourself or your kid. Take a deep breath and approach the problem with a level and logical head.
Some warnings signs to watch for include:
- Your child may spend a crazy amount of time online.
- You are suddenly fielding phone calls from strangers who are asking to speak with your child, or your child is suddenly receiving packages in the mail from strangers.
- Pornography pops up on the family computer.
- You notice that your child is withdrawing from his or her usual activities.
- You find out that your kid is using someone else's online account.
Finally, there are a lot of helpful services on the internet if your kids do wind up having trouble online. The best advice is to deal with the problem directly and as soon as you can.