Women’s Center Update: Curbing Internet abuse of children
One in five kids are sexually solicited on the Internet. The danger is real but it can be difficult to explain these concerns to your children without them thinking you are overprotective parent that needs to “get with the times.” Within this article you will learn how to keep you and your children safe on the Internet while still enjoying it’s many educational and safe entertainment opportunities.
The Internet has changed the way we stay in touch with loved ones, how we shop, how we exchange information and educate ourselves. It has even given us the ability to meet new people from around the world. Unfortunately, it is yet another tool that sexual predators may use to gain the trust of young children in order to take advantage of their innocence.
Incidents in which criminals have used the Internet to commit crimes against children have been prominent in the media. In some cases, the crimes have involved suspects and victims who met each other on social networking or blogging sites such as MySpace, Friendster, Xanga, and Facebook. While it may be tempting for many parents to simply ban their children from visiting or signing up on these sites, that may not be the most effective intervention available to parents.
Here is some advice for parents and teens about maintaining personal safety while having fun online:
For parents: Talk with your teens about what they can and cannot do online-do your best to be reasonable and set reasonable expectations; educate your children about perpetrators and the tricks they may use online; try to understand their needs, interests, and curiosities and try to remember what it was like when you were their age; be open with your teens, and encourage them to come to you if they encounter a problem or even a potentially disturbing situation online; keep the computer in a central location rather than the child’s bedroom; learn everything you can about the Internet, check out blogging, filtering, and ratings applications.
For teens: keep your identity private, never give out you name, phone number, or address; never agree to meet someone you met online in person, and remember that the person may not be who they say they are; respond wisely without giving too much information or if someone makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t respond at all and notify your parents. A smart way to avoid harassment online is to choose a screen name or e-mail that doesn’t identify you gender. For example: jenny92, girlygrl91, vikingstud90. All give a perpetrator just enough information to know your age, gender, and even what school you attend.
Computers are not the only way to get online, people may now use the Internet through their cell phones, personal digital assistants, and even video-game consoles. Some video-game systems allow people to chat and compete with players from around the world via an Internet connection. Cell phones can also be used to exchange instant messages, send e-mail, and surf the Web. Camera phones with built-in digital cameras even make it possible to exchange personal photos.
If you would like more information about maintaining the online safety of you and your children please contact the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center at (530) 544-2118 or stop by our office at 2941 Lake Tahoe Blvd., across from South Tahoe Middle School. For additional resources check out: Don’t Believe The Type at http://tcs.cybertipline.com/index.htm or The Cyber Tip Line at http://www.cybertipline.com/. The Women’s Center business office was financed through a low-cost loan from the Rural Community Assistance Corporation.
– Lisa Michele Utzig is an outreach coordinator at the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center.