Online Safety for Kids
While the internet provides useful and often entertaining information for kids, the risks associated with kids online can be painfully staggering. In some instances, children may stumble upon inappropriate images or fall victim to other online users -- including both adults and children -- who are seeking to use, exploit, or intimidate them. Parents and educators should therefore take the utmost precaution to help keep kids safe online.
Below are warning signs and other areas to look out for to help keep kids safe online.
Statistical Behavior Affecting Kids Online Safety
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, research shows that a large percentage of teens are putting themselves in potentially harmful situations when they use the internet and share personal information online.
Below are just some of the startling statistics.
- 71% of teens 13-17 say they received messages online from someone they did not know
- 40% of those receiving messages said they usually reply and chat back
- 30% of teens 13-17 have considered meeting someone that they have only talked to online
- 14% have actually had an encounter with someone they met online
- 1 in 4 youths 10-17 has been exposed to sexually explicit pictures online without seeking or expecting them
- 1 in 5 youths has received unwanted sexual solicitations online
"Cyber bullies" are people who use the Internet, or other forms of media, to tease, harass, embarrass, intimidate or humiliate kids online. Cyberbullying has become a significant concern among parents and educators, especially in light of high-profile cases involving cyberbullying-related deaths. As such, legislators have taken notice and have passed laws in some states criminalizing some forms of cyberbullying. Read a run-down of cyberbullying laws here.
"Chat rooms" are virtual places on the internet where people can communicate in real-time. Chat rooms, which are especially popular among teenagers, can be especially risky for adolescent kids who may be feeling the need to break away from a parent's control. One of the greatest dangers to kids online safety include the presence of sexual predators -- who often linger in chat rooms under the disguise of an innocent child or friend, hoping to find some unsuspecting individual to communicate with - and potentially later lure in meeting in some undisclosed location. It is a good idea for parents and educators to teach kids about the importance of online safety in chat room, and how to avoid potential dangers.
FBI Warning Signs That Your Child May Be at Risk Online
Below is a list of warning signs that may indicate your child's safety is at risk online.
- Your child spends a large amount of time online
- You find pornographic images on your child's computer
- You receive phone calls from people you don't know or who's number you don't recognize
- Your child receives unsolicited mail or gifts from people you don't know
- Your child quickly turns off the monitor to conceal what they were viewing when you walk by
- Your child withdrawals from family activities
- Your child uses an online account belong to someone else
What You Can Do to Keep Your Child Safe Online
Below are steps you can take to protect the safety of your kids online.
- The first step is to communicate with your child and discuss the potential for online dangers. Just as you would teach your child about the safety of using a helmet when riding a bike, teach them the dangers of talking with strangers online.
- Make sure to spend time with your child online and know what they are actually searching for. Acceptable uses of computer time may include researching information for school projects, downloading music, or email friends.
- You may wish to move the computer out of a child's bedroom and place it in a common area. It is much easier to spot signs of online danger when the computer screen is visible and in the open.
- Use software blocking controls or other parental controls offered by your internet service provider. You may also need to physically monitor your child's activity in "chat rooms" or other areas.
- Consider randomly checking your child's email account, not necessarily to "spy" on your child's conversation, but to identify potential signs of child predator acts.
- Finally, instruct your children to adhere to basic internet safety guidelines, such as never agreeing to meet with a stranger in person, not giving out their personal identifying information, and not to download pictures from an unknown source.
Internet safety for kids is an important matter. Taking the necessary steps to protect young children from child predators or risky online behavior is an important parental responsibility.
If you believe your child's online safety is at risk, or wish to learn about specific laws that apply in your jurisdiction, it may be best to contact a local attorney specializing in Internet laws.