Your kids love going online. And why not? The Internet brims with ideas, people, and experiences. But do you know what sites your kids visit or who they talk to online? Are you sure that an online surfing is safe for them?
It's hard to imagine what life was like before the Internet, when your social network included people you'd actually met in person, and the only mail you received came by postal carrier. Yes, the web has made it easier than ever to communicate, but with that ease come unwanted threats. And kids are the most vulnerable. You can't limit your kids from using the Internet, because these days it's a part of their natural development. As parents, what you can do is learn to make them safe.
Though there are risks, the Internet doesn't have to be a dangerous place for kids. It can be a great resource for homework help, playing games, expressing creativity or visiting fan sites. By being aware of the new threats, parents should learn all the dangers of using the Internet and then take corresponding measures to avoid those Internet dangers happened to your children. Here's an overview of the top five dangers that kids face online and what you can do to protect them.
On the Internet, cyberbullying takes various forms, says Netsmartz411.org, an online resource that educates parents about Internet safety. Cyberbullying includes sending hateful messages or even death threats to children, spreading lies about them online, making nasty comments on their social networking profiles, or creating a website to bash their looks or reputation.
Cyberbullying is repetitive harassment or threats usually made by a classmate or peer. The harassment is carried out through email, instant messaging or social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook and has become the number one danger that kids face online. And the anonymity of the Internet makes it easy for kids to engage in threatening behavior, says Francie Alexander, Scholastic's chief academic officer and co-author of The Internet: A Kid's Handbook. "It's much easier to bully someone when no one is looking," she says.
According to a study done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in seven children have received an unwanted sexual solicitation. "We talk to our kids about stranger danger, and that's just as prevalent in the virtual world," says Alexander. "When your kids go out to play, you ask them where they're going and who's going to be there. The same goes for their online activity. Don't be embarrassed to be the POS (parent over the shoulder)."
These days, it's practically social suicide not to have a Friendster, MySpace, Facebook, Hi5 or Xanga page. But while social networking sites provide kids with a ton of opportunities and ways of communicating, they may not realize that what they post today (suggestive pictures, song lyrics or too much personal information) can come back to haunt them ater. Unlike a letter, which can be burned or torn to pieces, what's written on the web lasts forever. Also, adults can pose as kids and easily reach out to kids on these sites if their profiles are public. Alexander advises parents to have a general awareness of these sites (even if that means creating their own profiles), but to stop at injecting themselves into chats their kids may be having with their friends. "When your child's friend comes over to your house, you know who they are, but you're not up in their room chatting with them," she says.
As we all know, the Internet is inundated with adult content. And now, even on sites that kids might like to visit, such as social networks or video download sites, adult content is lurking. Some countries ban adult content for all users, while in the U.S. school libraries receiving federal funds are obliged to block online access to such content. And while First Amendment guarantees have thwarted lawmakers' attempts to impose bans on particular types of online content, many parents object to graphic sexuality, adult language, and violence.
Data theft occurs when a fraudster steals identifying information--names, addresses, financial data--from an unsuspecting victim and sells the information or uses it for personal gain. Keyloggers can skim Web users' e-mail addresses and passwords by using software that surreptitiously captures the keystrokes they type, for example. Phishing scams use bogus e-mails and Web sites that seem legitimate but are actually designed to trick users into revealing personal and financial information. Computer criminals can then use the data to spy on or blackmail users, hijack their online accounts (including bank accounts), spread rumors, or operate under the victim's identity.
Due to the Internet's anonymity, strangers are talking to children all the time. They try to gain the child's trust by having friendly conversation at first, but over time, their true objective of sexually soliciting the child becomes evident. Children and parents alike are unaware of this, yet this is exactly what is going on via the Internet. What can today's parent do? Armed with information, there's quite a bit a parent can do.
1) Know what your kids are doing online. Supervise your children's computer activities, just as you do their television time.
2) Never give out personal information online, such as a home phone number, address, last name, name of school, passwords, or credit card info. Your kids would not give their address to a stranger on the phone, nor should they divulge it online.
3) Be cautious of online chat rooms. I allow them only with my supervision. Chat rooms are the cyber equivalent of CB radio. Users can "type" to each other in real-time, and messages are viewed by everyone in the chat room. Private chat rooms are also available. The problem is, as a famous New Yorker cartoon put it, "on the Internet no one knows you're a dog" or a child or an adult masquerading as a child.
4) Teach your children to come to you if anything ever makes them feel uncomfortable, such as inappropriate questions or an invitation to a private chat room. Do not respond to offensive email.
5) Use parental control software as appropriate. Parents routinely lock up household chemicals to protect their toddlers and the Internet can also be selectively locked. Today there are several software products to keep kids out of adult Internet sites.
Besides above tips, you also need to make full use of technology to help you protect your child. SuveilStar Monitoring software gives you the ability to review your child's Internet usage. Even if you don't look at each and every email or instant message they send, you'll have a good idea if they are making smart choices online.
With Surveilstar Parental Control Software, you can shield your children from cyber bullies, predators and adult oriented websites, and ensure you have the control you need over your children online activity. The web content filtering settings let you create varying levels of protection, including a very restrictive Kids filter that only allows the safest web sites to be viewed, and a few medium-level pages that are just right for teenagers, and then a no-restriction level that's perfect for parents. You can also modify the default settings to add or remove sites at your discretion.
SurveilStar Parental Control will take screenshots of your system every few seconds, and then lets you view it in a video-like display whenever you want to check up on your kid's computer activities. Besides, it will logs all computer activities including startup/shutdown, logon/logoff, hardware changes, software changes, application usages, website, document, printing, shared file logs, email send/receive, instant messages, application statistics, web statistics, traffic statistics, and more! The completely invisible to your child and hardly traceable recorder module will tell you when, how and what they did on the Internet. With its help and proper supervision, you can keep your families safe from ever more resourceful and persistent pornography vendors.