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 Online predators

Protect your child from online predators

You can minimize the risk of a child meeting an online predator by taking some simple steps:

Avoid Online Profiles

Many web sites offer users the opportunity to set up an online profile where they can provide information about themselves. However, this information can be accessed and used by predators. One way to protect your child's privacy is for him or her to avoid these online profiles. Usually, the online information is requested for advertising purposes, and your child is not required to complete a profile in order to participate in online activities.

Control Access to Chat Rooms

Adults who are seeking to exploit children spend countless hours in chat rooms. Many experts believe that chat rooms are not safe for children, particularly young children. If you decide to allow your children to enter chat rooms, make sure your decision is based on their age and maturity. Children who are allowed into chat rooms need additional supervision.

Control Instant Messaging

Like email and chat rooms, instant messaging (or "IMing") can be used to communicate secretly. Children often use abbreviations and code (such as "POS" which means "parent over shoulder") to change the course of the conversation and to keep parents from understanding online conversations. Click here for a list of abbreviations used in chat rooms and instant messaging.

Take Care of Photographs

Computers make it easy to send and share photographs, but it should be done carefully. Children should not send photos to anyone, including other children, without parental approval. You should also avoid posting photographs of children on sites that might be accessible to predators, including so-called modeling sites.

Keep Screen Names Anonymous

Predators can use screen names to help them track down a child. Make sure that your child's screen name does not include personal information such as name, home address, or school name.

Access Your Child's Email

Experts recommend that parents share an email account with their child, or maintain access to their child's email account and check it frequently. You might feel this is too intrusive, but its not. A computer is different from a diary or a journal. A journal contains private thoughts that are not communicated to others. However, emails, chatting and instant messaging are an open window to your child's life, carrying information to and from your home.

Place Computer in Common Area

You should place your computer in a central room of the house, in order to monitor what your child is doing online. The computer screen should face out, into the room, so it is easy for you to see. Develop a list of family rules for using the Internet (see sample Family Rules) and post it next to the computer.

Remind Children that Computer Use is Not Confidential

Children want to be treated as adults, and they feel entitled to privacy. But with a computer, you can go too far in trying to respect your child's privacy. Children should not have the expectation that everything they do on a computer will be considered personal and confidential.


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