The other day my youngest son was playing a popular game on the Xbox One. I overheard the conversations a few kids and my son were having and he said something that surprised me since we've talked about internet safety quite a bit. He mentioned that he was only 12 and that he was home with his mom and that he couldn't do something because he wasn't allowed to.
It shocked me.
So I had him turn the game off and we discussed again about telling people online that you don't know personally, any type of personal information.
Parents don't have to be computer experts to keep their children safe online.
According to the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, the first step is to realize that one out of every five youths who use the Internet receives an online sexual approach of solicitation during a one-year period.
Even scarier, in 15 percent of such cases, the solicitor attempts to meet the child in person. And, only 25 percent of those children who encounter a sexual solicitation tell a parent.
Worse yet, if asked, more than 29 percent of Internet-using children will freely give out their home address, e-mail address and other personal information online.
The Internet Keep Safe Coalition and the GEICO Educational Foundation have teamed up with the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center to let parents know how to help keep children safe online.
Here's what Internet Safety Rules they have come up with:
- Keep the computer in a common room or area in the house and position the monitor so it's available for public viewing.
- We have the monitor against a wall facing the living room so everyone can see it.
- Establish rules for using the Internet and teach your child important safety guidelines.
- We came up with an awesome internet contract – see sign up below.
- Use blocking software or filtering programs, but don't rely on them as your only line of defense.
- We use Qustodio which is great for iOS, Android and even PC/Laptops.
- Predators often use chat rooms to contact children. Teach children that people online are not always who they say they are.
- Again, Qustodio can do this too!
- Frequently check your computer's Internet history to see what sites your child is visiting.
- Qustodio doesn't allow your children to clear their internet history. You will be able to see everything in the app
- Monitor your child's e-mail account. Let him or her know you're checking it and why. Talk with your child about potential online dangers.
- Don't allow your children to have email accounts without your knowledge. My oldest tried to be sneaky and I found out. That's a huge no no! I have full access to all email accounts, personal and school.
- Spend time with your children when they're online. Have them show you their favorite sites.
- If you know what sites they are using, you'll know what to look for. I always check out what the boys are looking at or ask them to show me how they're doing something.
- If you see anything suspicious or think that your child may be a victim of Internet exploitation, contact your local FBI office or law enforcement agency.
- This is important. Kids don't realize it sometimes that they are a victim because people gain their trust and tell them it's what “best friends” or “boyfriends/girlfriends” do!
- Tell your children to protect their personal information. Children should never give their real name, address, phone number, the name of their school or a picture of themselves to anyone they meet online. Never let your child meet in person with anyone they've met on the Internet.
- NEVER, NEVER should any personal information be given out, EVER!
- Teach children to tell a parent, teacher or trusted adult if they feel uncomfortable about anything they've seen online.
- I can't stress this one enough. Let your kids know and understand that it's not tattling if it can hurt or if it's illegal.
With my oldest son, we came up with an Internet Contract that we are now going to go back over with both of our boys again and have them sign them! I think it's really important to have the kids understand that the Internet, though it's a great thing, can also be a bad thing.
We say all of the time “Sometimes, too much of a good thing is bad” and I think it definitely relates to internet and video games that have the ability to connect with people all over the world.
I've come up with an internet contract that both of my boys have to agree to in order to go on any electronics that are connected to the internet.
This contract has made things a bit easier. Whenever there is a problem, I just remind them of the contract and consequences that happen if they don't follow the contract. For instance, if they send something that they didn't have permission for, they may receive 1-2 days without any electronics. If they go onto a website that's not appropriate, they will need to research how those types of websites are bad and potentially dangerous to children.
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I remember when I was about 15-16 and we first had a computer with internet.
I used to jump into chat rooms and thought it was cool that I was chatting with older people. Some were 18, others were in their 50's. One guy was in his 60's and we connected. We met up one time at a coffee shop and he wanted to take me to a hotel. I told him I needed to use the restroom, walked into the kitchen instead and asked the manager on duty to call the police because I was under the impression that we were meeting with 3-4 other people, but he canceled the other people in order to lure me. The manager called the police, I didn't press charges because I didn't want to face my parents. But the guy, I found out that night, had been luring other girls from the internet to rape them. I was lucky that my family had always instilled in me about stranger danger in that aspect.
It's really important to explain to your kids about things like this.
It's not just happening to young girls.
It's happening to young boys, ladies and men in their 20's on up to the 80's. People prey on every age aspect. Whether it's sexual, money, materialistic… people get used every day. My parents didn't know the real dangers of the internet when the internet started being a “thing”. They were protective, but not as protective as I am with my boys because I know the dangers. I know what can happen to kids when it comes to the internet. It can be fun, great, and you can meet wonderful people…. but you can also meet people who you will never want to be in your life.