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Child Safety Online

It is difficult for parents to ensure their children can safely engage in online activity. The daily news is rife with reports of internet predators and underage Internet users are often unaware of the malicious intent of online acquaintances or sites with which they interact.

The Internet is an excellent source of 24/7 information, providing young people the opportunity to socialize, pursue their interests, and seek validation, but the Internet can also increase children's exposure to identity theft, hacking, and online stalkers.

How can parents help protect their children?

Home Computer Safeguards

Parents can ensure that the home computer provides safeguards.

  • Keep computers in the family room rather than the child's bedroom. It is more difficult for offenders to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to other family members.
  • Research filtering, blocking or website rating applications to provide adequate content control.
  • Monitor your child's interaction with online friends, just as you would their real time friends. Anonymous Internet contacts may not always be accurate. A twelve-year-old female's Internet identity may actually belong to a fifty-year-old man.
  • Talk to your children with Internet capable cellular phones about safe usage, and be sure to monitor the phone records.

Away from Home

Parents should also be aware that the home computer is not the only way for their children to access the Internet. They can use the unmonitored computer at a friend's house, their school, the public library, a club or even a coffee house. In addition, certain game consoles, handheld devices and mobile phones have the ability to connect to the Internet. For these reasons, it is important to openly communicate with your child to form healthy Internet habits.

  • Talk to your child about potential online dangers and sexual victimization.
  • Teach your children about responsible use of online resources. The online experience is far more than just chat rooms.
  • Talk to your child's school, friends, and public library about putting safeguards in place regarding unmonitored Internet access.
  • Teach your children the following:
    • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with anyone they meet online unless a parent is present.
    • Never upload personally identifiable pictures. Pictures are easily altered and can be widely broadcast in unflattering ways.
    • Never provide any personal information such as real name, phone number, address, social security number, school name, etc.
    • Make sure their screen name does not reveal too much about themselves (do not use, name, age, hometown, etc.)
    • Downloaded pictures can include unwanted programs, viruses, or sexually explicit images.
    • Never respond to any messages or postings that are obscene, suggestive, harassing, or make you feel uncomfortable.
    • Not everything they see or read online is true.
    • Never post information they would not want others to see. They need to realize that once they post it, they cannot take it back. Even if they try to delete it, older versions often exist in cyberspace.
    • Flirting with strangers online can have very serious consequences. Many people lie about who they are. You may never really know with whom you are interacting.
    • Trust your gut feelings and report any suspicions. Immediately notify a parent, another adult, someone they trust, or even let the police know if they feel threatened or uncomfortable about any online activity. Prompt notification could prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

Additional Resources

Visit Teen Safety on the Information Highway at http://www.safeteens.com/teen-safety-on-info-highway/ . This site is sponsored by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com ; http://www.netsmartz.org/index.aspx ). They also have a CyberTipline at http://cybertipline.com/ .

The Federal Trade Commission recommends the following sites (listed in alphabetical order) for tips and information from the federal government and the technology industry:

GetNetWise — www.getnetwise.org

GetNetWise is a public service sponsored by Internet industry corporations and public interest organizations to help ensure Internet users have safe, constructive, and educational or entertaining online experiences. The GetNetWise coalition wants Internet users to be just "one click away" from the resources they need to make informed decisions about their family's use of the Internet.

Internet Keep Safe Coalition — www.iKeepSafe.org

iKeepSafe.org, home of Faux Paw the Techno Cat, is a coalition of 49 governors/first spouses, law enforcement, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other associations dedicated to helping parents, educators, and caregivers by providing tools and guidelines to teach children the safe and healthy use of technology. The organization's vision is to see generations of children worldwide grow up safely using technology and the Internet.

i-SAFE — www.i-safe.org

Founded in 1998 and endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting the online experiences of youth everywhere. i-SAFE incorporates classroom curriculum with dynamic community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and concerned adults to make the Internet a safer place. Join them today in the fight to safeguard children's online experience.

National Crime Prevention Council — www.ncpc.org ; www.mcgruff.org

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) is a private, nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to enable people to create safer and more caring communities by addressing the causes of crime and violence and reducing the opportunities for crime to occur. NCPC addresses Internet Safety with kids and parents through www.mcgruff.org and public service advertising under the National Citizens' Crime Prevention Campaign — symbolized by McGruff the Crime Dog and his "Take A Bite Out Of Crime."

National Cyber Security Alliance — www.staysafeonline.org >

NCSA is a non-profit organization that provides tools and resources to empower home users, small businesses, and schools, colleges, and universities to stay safe online. A public-private partnership, NCSA members include the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Trade Commission, and many private-sector corporations and organizations.

Wired Safety — www.wiredsafety.org

WiredSafety.org is an Internet safety and help group. Comprised of unpaid volunteers around the world, WiredSafety.org provides education, assistance, and awareness on all aspects of cybercrime and abuse, privacy, security, and responsible technology use. It is also the parent group of Teen Angels , FBI-trained teens and preteens who promote Internet safety.

These helpful tips are provided by Digital Defense, Inc., a computer security company working with your credit union as a responsible member of the community to help insure the privacy and security of our nation's financial information.

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