Today’s children are logging onto the Internet by the millions. And it’s no wonder. The vast array of information and services available on the Web is staggering, and, of course, kids are heavy users of “instant messaging” and other new technologies.
However, there are some risks associated with Internet usage, including exposing your child to inappropriate material of a sexual or violent nature. Here are a few ways in which parents can reduce the risk.
Most online services and Internet providers allow parents to limit their children's access to certain services and features such as adult-oriented "chat rooms" and bulletin boards. Check for these when you first subscribe. These tools, while not foolproof, are useful for helping parents control children's access, but they cannot take the place of parental involvement and supervision.
Some guidelines for parents.
- Tell your child to never give out identifying information, such as home address, age, school name, or telephone number, in a public forum such as a chat room or bulletin board.
- Get to know the services that your children use. If you don't know how to log on, get your child to show you.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they have met online.
- Tell your child to never respond to bulletin board messages that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening or make them feel uncomfortable. Encourage your child to tell you when they encounter such messages.
- Remind your child that people online may not be who they seem to be.
- Remind your child that everything read online may not be true.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for using the computer.
- Be sure to make computer usage a family activity.
Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than in a child's room. Get to know their online friends just as you get to know all of their other friends.
These guidelines are worthy of a serious, sit-down conversation with your child. In addition, you may wish to have your child sign a “contract” with the following provisions:
- I will not give out personal information
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable
- I will never agree to get together with someone I meet online
- I will never send anyone my photo or anything else without checking with my parents
- I will not respond to any message that is mean in any way
- I will talk with my parents so that they can set rules for going on-line
For more information contact the Rochester Office for Missing & Exploited Children at 242-0900 or your Crime Prevention Officer at your local police department.