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Internet Safety: A Guide for Parents

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While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line services and the Internet.

Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children.

These individuals attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations. There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children.

Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via on-line contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. "chat," as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material.

Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.

What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line...

  • Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
  • You find pornography on your child's computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from people you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child is Communicating With A Sexual Predator On-line...

  • Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions.
  • Review what is on your child's computer.
  • Use caller ID service to determine who is calling your child.
  • Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home.
  • Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet relay chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail.
  • Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
    • Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography.
    • Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age.
    • Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.

What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child...

  • Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.
  • Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, NOT in your child's bedroom.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your Internet service provider and/or blocking software.
  • Always maintain access to your child's on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail.
  • Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends.
  • Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitations, that he/she is not at fault; he/she is the victim.
  • Instruct you children:
    • To never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on-line.
    • To never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know.
    • To never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
    • To never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.
    • To never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
    • That whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.