Safety in Cyberspace
If you or your child receives information online that you think is illegal or threatening to you or others, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's 24-hour, toll-free child pornography tip line. Operated in cooperation with the U.S. Customs Service and the Postal Inspection Service, the CyberTipline may be reached at 800-843-5678 or on the Web at www.missingkids.org.
Chat rooms enable live conversations with a group of other people. Some have private areas where two or more friends can engage in a private chat. Some have moderators who lead discussions, and others have monitors who will kick someone out for inappropriate language or subject matter.
Chat rooms probably are the most dangerous aspect of the Web for kids. This is the place where strangers make friends. Child predators may enter these sites, strike up conversations with young people, and, in rare cases, lure them into face-to-face meetings.
Explain to your kids that just because a chat room participant identifies herself as a 13-year-old girl doesn't mean she is a 13-year-old. She might actually be a 35-year-old with harmful intentions. A chat room that's for kids only doesn't necessarily have only kids in it.
To avoid harassment, girls especially should pick gender-neutral names to use as their identifiers in chat rooms.
Handling Junk E-Mail
Many commercial enterprises send unsolicited e-mail—sometimes called “spam”—to sell their products or services. Some of these businesses may operate sexually explicit web sites and send messages that lure potential customers—and in some cases, kids—to a sample of a site. Return addresses can be deliberately misleading, so a message that looks innocent may not be. If you receive objectionable material through e-mail, contact your Internet service provider so it can investigate its origin.
Web Site Safety
Some kids set up their own Web sites, or home pages, through their schools or their home Internet providers. If your child wants to try it, caution her not to put her address, phone number, or photo on the site.
“Kids and Company: Together for Safety” is the title of a personal-safety curriculum for grades K-8 that was developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Endorsed by such leading groups as the National Education Association and the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the program can be used in both schools and community groups. For more information, call 800-892-7430.
When visiting Web sites, kids sometimes encounter an offer to enter a contest or receive a promotional item. These usually require them to enter information about themselves. Typically, this data is used for marketing products. Tell your kids to check with you before providing any data to a Web site.
If you feel you need help setting Internet limits for your child, look into software that screens out unwanted content. Some such child-friendly Internet software allows you to preselect the sites you want your children to be able to access, and keep your kids from entering chat rooms. No system is foolproof, however. For this reason, it's important to establish clear guidelines about what your child can and cannot do when using the Internet.
Many Internet providers make these types of controls available for free with their service. Check your provider to see what it offers.
More on: Childhood Safety
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Child Safety © 2000 by Miriam Bacher Settle, Ph.D., and Susan Crites Price. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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