Exposure to sexual material

shocked kid with laptop

How it can happen

A lot of information on the Internet is completely inappropriate for children. Unfortunately, children can access sexual material accidentally by misspelling a website address. They can also access it intentionally. This material can also be delivered to your child in an unsolicited email (known as "SPAM") as an attachment or a hyperlink.

Report obscene material

It is a violation of Federal law for any person to knowingly send or attempt to send obscene material to a child under the age of 16 years. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children takes reports of unsolicited obscene material sent to a child. Please report any incidents to 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or www.cybertipline.com

Tips for controlling exposure

Contact your ISP for help

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may be able to help you control what your child can and cannot access on the Internet. However, according to some ISPs, parents rarely take full advantage of these services. Contact your ISP to learn about the parental control features it offers; many ISPs provide controls for free or at a small charge. In either case, the company has a technical support staff to help you. If you want to learn more about your company's features or how to set up the parental controls yourself, go to the company's website or contact them directly.

Use your computer's parental controls

In addition to the parental controls available through the ISP, you can use the computer itself to help make the Internet a safer place for children. For instance, you can set up the computer so a child only has access to certain approved websites.

This process may seem daunting, but the computer can assist you in setting up parental controls. Most computers contain some form of a "Help" menu. You should access it and type "Parental Control." The computer will present a list of topic information based on those words. Clicking on a topic will bring more information. One of the first things your computer will do is instruct you to set up individual logins for each family member.

Parents can also check a record of the websites that have been visited. These are often found under "History." The websites offer clues about your child's online activities.

For instance, if your child has a secret email account, the Internet History may indicate visits to the site that hosts the email account.

You can set up the computer's parental controls to prevent the Internet History from being altered or deleted by your child.

Assistance is available

If you aren't able to set up parental controls on your computer, here are some other options:

  • Contact Technical Support. Call the computer or software company's technical support number, or send the company an email. Software means the programs you use to access the Internet like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Netscape.
  • Arrange for a House Call. Contact a local computer technical support company that makes house calls. For a fee, a technician can come directly to your home, set up the parental controls for you, and show you how to use them.
  • Contact Family and Friends. Many of us have a family member or a friend who is more computer-savvy than we are. If you are having difficulty setting up parental controls, ask that person to assist. They may be willing to help.

Consider installing filtering and blocking software

You may also want to acquire additional parental control software that limits what your child can access. Filtering devices can add another level of security, although many people find that the controls available on their computer and through their ISP are sufficient.