Child and Teen Safety on the Internet
The Internet is a vast and growing network of people and information. With millions of individuals all over the world logging in on a daily basis, this complex community hosts sites of all kind with true and false information on a vast amount of subjects. Today the Internet is not only for adults. Teenagers and children are also utilizing this network of networks for everything from education to entertainment. They are privy to the same vast pool of uncensored and ungoverned information that their parents are. Of course with this type of access comes many levels of risk. Parents and guardians should be aware of what the risks are, where they are found, and how to prevent or reduce them.
There are infinite risks when a child or teen uses the Internet. It is a network of strangers, both safe and dangerous. According to thePreda Foundation there are around 750,000 sexual predators on the Internet with the sole purpose of making contact with children. Thievery, particularly identify theft, is also a substantial risk. Thieves too may gain access to a child or family’s personal information by gaining the trust of the child throughfaux relationships or persuasive behavior. Additionally there is an endless amount of violent and sexually explicit sites that are inappropriate for any child or teen to visit.
Being able to reduce a child or teen’s risk on the Internet means understanding where and what the most dangerous sites are. As a general rule, any area that allows public communication should be considered risky. This includes chat rooms, instant messaging, newsgroups, forums, and bulletin boards. Social predators are known to commonly visit chat rooms and communicate with children through instant messaging. Additionally, parents or guardians should closely monitor sites that allow purchasing or ask for any personal information.
It is impossible to monitor your child or teen’s Internet use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, there are important steps that a parent or guardian can take to reduce risks. Children and teens should know basic street smarts when navigating the Internet. This includes understanding that much of the information is trustworthy but there is false material around every turn. The people that occupy chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups, and other networks are not always who they say they are. It is important children and teens know to never give out personal information, allow meetings, or respond to hostile or uncomfortable subject matter.
The sites children or teens frequent should be constantly monitored. Computers should be moved to public areas of the home and there should be a limit on the amount of time spent on the Internet. The more children and teens know about the dangers of the Internet, the better. The more parents and guardians regulate the when, where, why, and how of Internet use, the less risk there will be for the child in the end.