Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

Children are our most valuable assets, but they are the most vulnerable segment of society as well.  With evolving technology, keeping children and teens safe from internet predators has become a major concern for many parents.   Knowing and heeding the warning signs that indicate a child may be in danger is one of the things that parents can do to keep online perpetrators at bay.

Why is the Internet So Dangerous?
The internet is a wonderful tool that children and others can use to expand their horizons and explore a world of knowledge and possibility.  Unfortunately, this information super highway is also a means for depraved individuals to prey upon unsuspecting victims by seducing them with pseudo-kindness and masked empathy.  Individuals with malicious intentions often engage youngsters in sexually explicit conversations or other improper communication through chat rooms, instant messaging, or e-mail; or worse, they seek to meet them face-to-face.  Parents and children should realize that no matter what the offender presents as his or her alleged online profile, their real gender, age, and personality is usually obscured.

Young children, and especially teens, can inadvertently step into an internet predator’s trap by their natural interest in sexually explicit material.  Sex-offenders often try to use these natural curiosities to lure an unsuspecting adolescent into an inappropriate conversation, or they may attempt to set up a seemingly harmless meeting with them.  Predators also take advantage of the fact that children are often naïve to the potential dangers of interaction with people they meet online.

Sign that Your Child May be at Risk
Many internet service providers (ISP’s) offer control features that parents can use to limit their child’s access to certain material.  In addition, certain software and filtering programs can help block personal information from being sent out. Even with this protection in place, there is no guaranteed way to keep online predators from entering your child’s world.  With that in mind, consider these signs that your child may be communicating inappropriately with a questionable subject.
* Spending extended periods of time on the computer at night
* Phone calls from unknown people or questionable long distance calls
* Gifts or packages sent to your child through mail delivery
* Withdrawn or other unusual behavior

Preventative Measures
Communicating openly with young people about potential dangers is one of the best things parents can do to avert an unwanted internet situation.  Here are some others:
* Become computer literate.  You cannot help your children stay safe from predators if you don’t have essential computer skills.  With the ability to navigate the internet, you can also learn to do things like block certain people from talking to your child, or report questionable behavior to site moderators and internet providers.
* Get involved with online activity.  Many parents feel like it might be snooping to keep an eye on what sites your child is visiting, but there is no shame in monitoring your child’s computer activity.  In fact, an appropriate stance to take with your child is that with parental responsibility comes parental involvement.
* Encourage kids to talk to you.  It is important for your child to feel like they can come to you if they feel uncomfortable or threatened.
* Remind your children from time to time not to give out any personal information.
* Arrange the computer so that the screen is easily visible by other family members.  This discourages initial visiting of offensive sites where predators hang out.

Technology can be very useful and making use of the internet as a learning resource or for entertainment purposes can be fun and rewarding for children.  Parents who use common sense and employ precautionary measures can make sure that their children are not victimized by online predators.

About Melissa J. Murphy

Melissa Murphy is in the business of building self-esteem, instilling confidence, and restoring hope in those who have given up on life. She is currently completing her degree in psychology, and has worked as a life coach and faith-based counselor for more than a decade. By bringing her personal life experiences into her work, Melissa is able to help others survive their wounds, heal their pain, and live a life of success despite having incurred overwhelming emotional scars. For the last few years, she has discovered the joys of writing and has published a growing number of articles. Melissa currently resides in the Houston area with her husband and her two wonderful children.

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