Internet Safety for Kids: How and Why Parents Should Learn About the Internet Are you the parent of a child who uses the internet or the parent of a child who will start using the internet soon? If you are, you should know that the internet is a great way to stay up-to-date on the news, do research for school projects, and communicate with friends, but it can also be very dangerous. As a parent, it is your responsibility to make sure that your child stays safe online. Unfortunately, for this to happen you must know your way around a computer and the internet. Do you? A child should never know more than a parent does about the internet. At the very least, you should know about the same. If you are looking to block adult websites or websites that have offensive language, it will not do you any good if your teenager knows ways to get around the parental controls that you set. That is why it is important that you know how to use a computer and the internet or learn if you don't know. Another reason why you should be well educated on the internet and computer use is because you are better able to fully understand the dangers of them. You may hear that an internet predator approached or kidnapped a child on the news, but you may automatically assume that it will not happen to your child. Unfortunately, until you understand how the internet works, you really have no idea. Does your child use internet chat rooms or social networking websites? If so, do you know how easy the internet makes it for someone to create a whole new, fake identity? A good understanding of computer and internet use can better enable you to protect your child. Do you know that Internet Explorer, the browser that comes standard, has a free parental control option that just needs to be activated? A few easy steps and you can have certain websites blocked from your child. Unfortunately, you won't know this if you don't know all that you can know about the computer or the internet. Speaking of the internet, additional online safety tools for parents can be purchased online as well. Now that you know the importance of staying in the know about the internet and a computer in general, you may be curious as to how you can go about doing so. The good news is that there are a number of ways that you can learn all that you need to know about computer and internet use. A few of these ways are outlined below for your convenience. Teaching yourself is an easy way to learn about the internet and computer use. In fact, what better way is there than to just jump on the computer and see what you can find. For starters, examine your computer or your internet browser for free internet safety tools for parents. You may also want to visit some of the websites that your child visits, just to see what they are subjecting themselves to. Visit their online profile for MySpace, Facebook, or another social networking website. Does it make you uneasy? Are the discussions taking place in your child's favorite chat room too adult? You can also ask a trusted friend or relative for help. Do not ask your child or teenager for help though. If they know that you want to set up parental controls or keep tabs on their internet use, they may withhold important information from you. Instead, invite a trusted friend or relative over for coffee and lunch and let them show you the ins and outs of the internet. All you really need is a couple of hours. You can also take an internet or computer education course. These courses are sometimes offered for free or for an affordable fee by local community groups, colleges, or vocational training centers. In fact, see if your child's school offers anything. Some schools host informational seminars for parents on internet safety about once a year. Internet Safety for Kids: Rules to Set for Online Message Boards and Chat Rooms Is your child or teenager interested in meeting new people online? At this age, they aren't very likely to meet the person in real life, but communicate through way of the internet instead. As nice as this sounds, it is important to remember that it can still be dangerous. Just because your child is talking to someone who claims to be another teenager, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are. Since it is relatively easy for false identities to be created online, especially for internet and child predators, you will want to set strict rules if you intend to let your child use online message boards and internet chat rooms to do this communicating. As for what you rules you should set, it will honestly depend on your child's age. Teenagers may have a little bit more freedom, but still don't let them use online chat rooms, online message boards, or the internet in general without at least a few rules. One of the many rules that you may want to impose, concerning internet chat rooms and online message boards is approval. Instead of letting your child pick which websites they want to visit, you can do so for them. Favorite place the approved message boards and online chat rooms so that your child can easily find them. As for how you can find safe chat rooms and message boards for your child to use, you will want to get started with a standard internet search. Closely examine all of the websites that appear on your screen. Are private messages allowed? Most chat rooms and message boards for kids have them disabled, as this is how many internet predators target children. Also, look for moderated forums and chat rooms, as this means that all content is reviewed by an adult. You may also want to set rules as to when your child can use an online message board or an internet chat room. For example, only allow your child to communicate and socialize online when you are at home or even in the same room. This internet safety for kids step works pretty well, especially for teenagers. They are less likely to have adult conversations, share personal information, or exchange pictures or videos when you are in the same room or when they know that they are being watched. It is also a good idea to limit the amount of time that your child can use online message boards or internet chat rooms. It often takes internet predators more than one discussion to gain the trust of a child target. For that reason, you will want to be cautious if your child signs onto the internet at the same time everyday. Ask your child if they can wait until later or start using the internet earlier. If they can't or don't want to, they may be meeting someone online to talk directly to. That is why it is always a good idea to limit when your child can use online message boards and chat rooms and for how long. You should prohibit your child from posting pictures or videos of themselves online, as this makes them an easy target. If your child wants to post a picture, have them pick out a generic picture online, of like a football or a flower. Also, do not let your child exchange personal information online. Remember that they are not the only ones in danger if your child gives away your address or phone number, as the rest of your family may end up in danger as well. Internet Safety for Kids: Online Chat Rooms versus Online Message Boards Are you the parent of a teenager or a child who would like to use the internet to meet and communicate with others who share similar interests? If so, your child may be interested in using an online chat room. Although online chat rooms are a nice and easy way to talk, it is important to remember that not all online chat rooms are safe. That is why many parents often opt for message boards instead, but is it really a safer option? Even if you aren't an avid internet user yourself, you likely know that online message boards and online chat rooms are different. Online chat rooms have live communication appearing on the screen. Conversations are held at that very moment. Instead, online message boards involve communications that may carry on for days or even weeks. There are also more detailed and themed discussed that occur on message boards, as opposed to chat rooms. Common topics discussed include homework, parents, pets, music and sports. As for why some parents prefer online message boards, as opposed to internet chat rooms, it is because the conversations are not live. Yes, multiple posters may be online at the same time, but it is common for someone to post a topic and not get a response for a few hours or even a day or two. In fact, if your child makes a post about their new pet, someone may ask about their pet or congratulate them when they aren't even online themselves. This gives many parents comfort and peace of mind. Another reason why some parents prefer letting their children use online message boards, as opposed to online chat rooms, is because most message boards are monitored by a trusted adult, who is sometimes paid for their work. This means that all offensive posts should be removed in a relatively short period of time. Many times, the moderator will also ban that user from returning. In keeping with the monitoring of content, is important to remember that not all message boards are moderated. You will, however, find that a good percentage are. In fact, most message boards for adults also have someone who reviews the content. With that said, there is no harm in checking. In fact, the same should be done with internet chat rooms. If a chat room for children or teenagers is only open for a few hours a day, as opposed to 24 hours a day, there is a good chance that a monitor is present. This may give you some comfort and peace of mind. Also, be sure to examine internet chat rooms and message boards for kids that do not allow other users to privately communicate with each other through the use of private messages, also commonly known as a PM. Whether you let your child use an online chat room or an online message board, you should first check it out for yourself. Visit a chat room. Do not talk to anyone, but see for about five minutes what type of content is being talked about. The same should be done with online message boards for kids. Do you think that the content is safe or do any chatters or posters seem too mature for the room or message board? As for how you can go about finding online message boards and chat rooms that are safe for your child to visit or to checkout for yourself first, you may want to perform a standard internet search. Search with a phrase like "safe online messages boards for children." There are also television networks, like Nick and The N, which are designed for both teens and tweens, that have online message boards. They can allow your child to chat with others who like the same shows. As highlighted above, internet chat rooms and online message boards can be safe for your child to use, as long as they know the dangers. Also, be sure to checkup on your child from time to time. Make sure that they are using a safe message board and chat room and make sure that they aren't exchanging personal information online. Internet Safety for Kids: The Importance of Monitoring Your Child's MySpace Use If you are an avid internet user, there is a good chance that you have heard of MySpace before. As an avid internet user, you likely already know that MySpace is a social networking site that has took the internet by storm. As neat as MySpace looks from the standpoint of an internet user, you also need to look at it from the standpoint of a parent if you are one. So, are you a parent whose child uses the internet? If you are, there is a good chance that your child is also using MySpace. Do you know? You may be surprised just how many junior high school and high school students use MySpace as a way to communicate with friends, as well as a way to meet new friends. Although all websites have the potential to be dangerous, MySpace, you can say, has an increased risk. For that reason, it is important to monitor your child's use of MySpace. As important as it is to hear that MySpace can be dangerous for children and teenagers, you may be looking for more information. Many parents are unaware of the dangers that MySpace and the internet in general holds. The best way to protect your child online and on MySpace is to be aware. One reason why you need to monitor your child's use of MySpace is because of internet predators, which are also often sexual predators. MySpace makes it easy for strangers to communicate with each other. The internet in general makes it easy to be someone else, like someone a lot younger or someone a lot older. Your child may end up talking to a 50 year old man or women, who pretends to be someone their age. For that reason, you need to monitor your child's MySpace account. Make sure that they are not sharing personal information online, such as their full name, phone number, or address. Another one of the many reasons why you should monitor your child's use of MySpace is because of pictures and video. MySpace allows all internet users to post pictures and videos. In fact, it is relatively easy to do so. All profiles that are public can be viewed by others. In keeping with internet predators, MySpace also records and posts your child's location, such as the city and state. Posting this information, along with their first name, the school, and a personal photo or video can make it easier for your children to be found, even by those who they haven't made direct contact with online. Although internet predators are often the biggest threat of children using the internet and MySpace, there is another danger that lurks. There have been multiple news reports that highlight children, mostly teenagers, who have been suspended from school, suspended from sports teams, or arrested. This is often the result of a MySpace user posting pictures or videos of them doing something illegal, like stealing, doing drugs, or drinking underage. If this is information that your child has on their MySpace page, you will want to see it and get it removed before their school or the authorities do. Now that you know some of the dangers that children face when using MySpace, you may be curious as to how you can go about protecting them. First, make sure you know if your child has a MySpace account. You can view your computer's history or perform a search on the MySpace.com page to see if your child has a profile listed. If they do, view their profile. You should talk to your child about the dangers of MySpace anyways, but you should definitely talk to them if you see something disturbing on their MySpace page. This should include conversations that take a sexual tone or the exchange of personal information. As a reminder, the monitoring of your child's MySpace use is extremely important. No matter how mature or reliable your child is, they may unintentionally become a victim. How to Protect Your Child When Using the Internet Are you the parent of a child or a teen who uses the internet? If so, you likely already know that the internet can be a dangerous place for a child, especially if your child uses online chat rooms or social networking websites. For that reason, there are a number of steps that you, as a parent, will want to take to protect your child when they use the internet. The first step that you should take, to help keep your child safe online, is to know as much as you can about computers and the internet. Did you know that there are ways for you to see which websites have been visited on a computer? Did you know that some computers already have parental controls installed on them that just need to be set? You can only benefit from these tools that can help to protect your child if you know that they do exist. Speaking of parental controls, be sure to know what your computer has. If you have an older model computer, you may benefit from purchasing additional software programs. These programs can easily be found for sale online or in most media or office supply stores. As for the programs that may already be on your computer, open up a new Internet Explorer window. From the main headings at the top of the page, click on "Tools," and then "Internet Options." A new window will appear; highlight the "Content," tab and right away you will see an option that lets you block certain content from showing on a computer. In keeping with parental controls, don't give into a child who complains about them being used. If you create a password to override these controls, which you may need if your whole family shares a computer, that password can also be used for your teenager. Don't give them the password though. Use it to unblock certain sites that they ask and you first approve. Another easy way that you can protect your child when they use the internet is to have the computer in a frequently traveled room. You can also limit the use of certain websites, like social networking websites or internet chat rooms. Make them only available when you are home or in the same room. If your child has their own computer, like a laptop that they can take anywhere with them, be sure to check the internet history of their computer randomly every week or so. Speaking of which, do not let your child have their own login information. When you first turn on a computer, you often see a button that says someone's name. Many families use one standard account. Your child can easily create their own. If they do, do not let them have their own password. This can make it difficult or impossible for you to examine their online activities. Having you checkup on their online activities may not be something that your teen likes, but you likely purchased the computer and you, as the parent, have the right to check. As it was previously stated, you will want to check the internet history of a child who has their own computer or if your child uses the family computer when you are not home. If you have Internet Explorer, which most computers do, open a new internet window. Towards the top of the page, you will see a menu bar with a number of pictured icons. You can check the history of a computer by clicking on the icon with a clock and a small green arrow. This should tell you which websites your teenager has been viewing online. Finally, it is important that you talk with your teenager about the dangers of using the internet, namely social networking websites or internet chat rooms. Teach them what to do if they are harassed online or approached by an internet predator. Make sure they know not to erase the information, but rather to save it or show it to you right away, especially if you decide to contact your local police department. Internet Safety Rules to Establish with Your Children Are you the parent of a child who has recently started using the internet or are you the parent of a child who will soon start? When a child reaches about junior high school, they rely on the internet to do many school research projects. However, as a parent, it is important to remember that research isn't all that the internet is used for. Many children and teens use the internet as an easy way to communicate with their friends or even to make new friends. The ability to use the internet to make new friends and communicate with current friends sounds pretty neat at first glance, but it is important to take a closer look. Did you know that sexual predators often use the internet to target unsuspecting children and teenagers? Anyone can hide behind a computer and create a new identity. That is why it is important that you, as a parent, set rules for your child when they use the internet. For starters, let your child know that they cannot give out their personal information online. There is absolutely no reason why they should give anyone their address or phone number online. Make sure that your child knows that just because the person they are talking to online claims to be a 16 year old boy or girl, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are. It is also important to prevent your child from posting personal pictures or videos of themselves online. Unfortunately, this is something that many children do. Visit MySpace.com, which is a popular social networking website. You will soon see that just about every member, even children and teenagers, post pictures of themselves online. This can be dangerous, especially when other information, like a city or town or school, is divulged. If your child wants to post pictures or videos online, be sure to at least review them yourself first. Make sure your child knows that they are not allowed to meet, in person, with anyone who they meet online. This is important, as this is how many children and teenagers fall victim to internet predators and sexual predators. Yes, the person who they are talking to on the computer may be who they say they are, but are you willing to take that chance? If an in person meeting does take place and you know about it, attend with your child. Let multiple people know where you are going and who you are meeting with. Be sure to do so in a public place. It is also important that you set rules for the use of internet chat rooms and social networking websites. For starters, if you don't want your child to use these things, don't let them. Monitor your child if use if they do. For example, make sure you are in the room if your child is using an internet chat room. As for social networking websites, make your child set their profile to private. You will also want to regularly check it yourself to make sure that personal information, like your home phone number or home address, isn't posted. One problem that many parents face is checking up on their children online. It is no secret that most children know their way around a computer nowadays. You cannot check the internet history of your computer, which tells you which websites have been visited, if your child clears it on a daily basis. That is why you should establish rules on this and other similar practices. The above mentioned rules should help to prevent your child from running into problems online, but you honestly never know. Make sure that your child knows to come to you immediately if they receive threatening, harassing, or sexual messages online. Make sure they also know to show you the message or to save it for your viewing, as opposed to just deleting it from the screen. Protection may be available for you by way of your local police department. Finally, make sure that your child knows that all of the rules you set concerning internet use apply to all computer use, not just on the computer at home. Internet and Kids: How Young Is Too Young? Are you a parent? If you are, you may be curious as to when children regularly start using the internet. In all honesty, you will find that it depends. There are some parents who start their children with using a computer and the internet right away and others wait until their children need to do so for school. So, how young is too young for your child to use the internet? What many parents, especially first time parents, do not realize is that some elementary schools teach their children how to use a computer as young as first grade. Of course, they may not learn how to surf the internet, but they do often learn the basics. These basics may include learning how to type, how to turn on a computer, how to use a computer mouse, and so froth. In keeping with young age, there are many parents who allow their toddlers and preschoolers to play computer games. Although software for those games can be purchased online or in most media stores, some parents turn to the internet. The good news about this approach is that many trusted websites, like those for Nick Jr, PBS Kids, and PlayHouse Disney do not have harmful advertisements on their websites that your child could accidentally click on. Young elementary school children are also likely to use the internet and a computer in general to play computer games. Towards the fifth or sixth grade, children may start to use the internet to do research for school projects. This is when it is really important to start monitoring your child's use of the internet. Even if your child doesn't use online social networking websites, use internet chat rooms, or visit pornographic websites, it doesn't mean that they can't accidentally come across them. Some websites are not very careful with what advertisements they show. Junior high school and high school students, honestly, need the most monitoring online. These are students who not only use the internet to research, but to communicate with their friends and to make new friends. Unfortunately, not all teenagers are educated on the dangers that lurk online, especially where internet chat rooms and social networking websites are concerned. So, is your child ready to use a computer and the internet? As stated above, it is your decision to make. With that being said, be sure to use your best judgment and be sure to establish some firm ground rules. Children who are at least seven years of age should never be allowed to use a computer alone. Strict rules should be imposed for older children. Speaking of internet safety rules, be sure to make your views on social networking websites and internet chat rooms clear. If you don't want your child to use them, state so. If they are allowed, establish rules. A few rules to get you started involve making a social networking website profiles private, not communicating directly with strangers, not trading personal information online, and not posting personal pictures or videos online. As a reminder, you have the ability to determine when and where you child can access the internet. Just be sure that if you do allow your child to use the internet that you establish ground rules. Even toddlers and preschoolers should be able to follow these rules, such as only playing games on the website you get them set on. Parents: What You Need to Know About Social Networking Websites Are you the parent of a teenager? If you are, there is a good chance that your child is interested in using social networking websites, like MySpace, if they don't already. Although these websites are a nice way to stay in contact with friends, especially those who may have moved away, they can also be dangerous. That is why, as a parent, you should learn as much as you can about popular social networking websites. It is first important to know that social networking websites, especially MySpace, are popular. Even if you think that your teenager isn't using them, they may be. This is because most high school and junior high school students think that social networking websites, like MySpace, are "cool." In fact, MySpace and other similar websites are hot topics that are discussed in many schools across the country. As popular as social networking websites are, it is important to also know that they can be dangerous. This doesn't, however, mean that you automatically have to ban your child from using them. As the parent, you have the right to control which websites your child visits in your home and on your computer, but knowledge is key. If your child knows the dangers that lurk on social networking websites, they are better able to protect themselves and use social networking websites as they were meant to be used, to easily and safely communicate with friends. What you also need to know about social networking websites is that just about anyone can read what your child posts online. That is why children, typically those under the age of 18, should have their profiles set to private. This way, only those who are accepted as their friends can see what they have posted. Otherwise, your teenager daughter may innocently post a picture from last summer's pool party and a child predator could get the wrong impression or want to target your daughter just because of that otherwise innocent photo they were able to view. Speaking of internet predators, they have been known to target social networking websites. What is so concerning about this is that many teens and their parents don't realize that they are dealing with an internet predator until it becomes too late. Just because an internet user has a profile and pictures that make them look like a 15 year old boy or girl, it doesn't mean that they are the same age as your child. In fact, they could even be a registered sex offender. As it was previously stated, pictures or videos that a child posts on their MySpace page or the page of another social networking profile can be viewed and misinterpreted by others. There are also other dangers associated with posting personal pictures and videos. As cool as your teenager may think it is to have a picture or video of them doing a prank or drinking, it could land them into a lot of trouble. Many schools and police departments are starting to use MySpace and other social networking websites to their advantage. Your teen may find themselves in trouble with the law, suspended from school, or suspended from their extra curricular activities. It is also important to know that some social networking websites make it easy for your child's real identity to be discovered. This could lead to someone showing up at your door, stalking your child, sending them letters, or even calling your home. For example, MySpace posts your location online, which often includes your city and state. There is also a spot where your child can enter in what school they attend. Combine this with a picture and your teen can easily become a target. As previously stated, social networking websites can be dangerous, but that danger decreases when your child is aware of it. Ways that you can protect your child involve having them set all social networking profiles to private. Establish rules about accepting new online friends. You will also want to view your child's profile from time to time. Are any personal pictures or videos posted? If so, you may want to have your child remove them. Also, make sure that no personal information, including full name, address, phone number, and school name, is divulged. Parental Controls for the Internet: How to Use Them Are you a parent who has recently decided that you would like to keep your child safe when they use the internet? If you are, you may want to use internet parental controls. They are one of the best internet safety steps that you can take to protect your child. As nice as it is to hear that internet parental controls can help to protect your child from danger online, you may be curious as to how they work or how you can get started with them. Although you will find some variances, most parental controls for the internet are free, cheap, and extremely easy to set up. If you are using Internet Explorer as your internet browser, which most computer users have, you have parental controls that are built right into your computer! How neat is that? To set these parental controls, you will want to open up a new internet window, just like you would when surfing the web. Next, select "Tools," and then "Internet Options," from the dropdown menu. A new window will appear and then you can click on the "Content," tab. Enabling the content advisor will allow you to start protecting your child online. Although Internet Explorer comes standard on most computers, there are some internet users who use FireFox instead. If you are using FireFox, setting parental controls for the internet isn't as easy as it is with Internet Explorer. This is because there are not any built-in controls. With that said, they do make it easy for you to get them. The main website for FireFox has links to add-ons that you can easily use and install. Many of these add-ons are free of charge. AOL is another common internet browser that is used. AOL also has parental controls that are easy for you to use. AOL provides parents, like yourself, with the largest options. In addition to customizing your options, AOL also has preset controls. These controls are based on a child's age range. Even if you choose to set your own options, these are great guides to follow, especially if you are unfamiliar with computers. Now that you know you have a number of different options, when looking to get started with parental controls, you may be curious how you can make the most out of them. Some parental controls allow you to set ratings for certain websites and choose levels that you want to accept. For example, Internet Explorer can allow you to block websites that focus on just fighting or you can go higher up and block websites that have blood and gore for content. This option is nice, but it may unintentionally end up blocking some "safe websites." A more direct approach to take is to outright block the websites that you don't want your child to visit. The parental controls that come with Internet Explorer easily allow you to do this. What you will want to do is perform a standard internet search to find these websites. For example, if you want to block social networking websites, perform a standard internet search with the phrase "social networking websites." Any websites that you find, you can simply just add them to your blocked list. As you can see, parental controls are easy to install and you have a number of different options. That is why you should get them set as soon as possible. 4 Signs That Your Teenager May Be In Trouble Online Are you a parent who has a teenager who uses the internet? If you are, do you know that your teenager may run into trouble online? Their chances increase when they are using the internet to socialize with friends or make new friends. Your child may unintentionally fall victim to a child predator online or they may be harassed by those that they know online. But, would you know if your child is in trouble? For your convenience, there are four signs that your teenager may be in trouble online. If any of these signs apply to your child, you will want to take action right away. 1 -- They Get on the Computer at the Same Time Everyday What many parents do not realize is that children and teenagers can easily become targets of online child predators. Many also do not realize that this process doesn't always happen overnight. Some child predators pretend to be the ages of their targets. They then work to gain the trust of those targets. This can take a few days or a few weeks. You may be able to tell if this is happening though if your child gets on the internet at the same time, every single day. This is a good sign that they are communicating directly with someone, who may not have pure intentions. 2 -- They Are Secretive When They Use the Computer How does your child act when they are using the computer? Does your child try to hide what they are doing online from you? If they automatically shut off the computer or put a game on the screen, they may be trying to prevent you from seeing what they are doing online. This is a good sign that your child may be doing something they shouldn't be doing online, like having direct, personal conversations with a stranger, who may be a child predator. 3 -- They Are Very Happy When Getting Off the Computer If your child is overly happy when they sign off the internet, they may be on the path to trouble. This sign can be a little bit tricky though. Your child may be happy because they just finished a long school project, but you honestly never know. If your teenager is communicating with someone online, they may be in the process of starting a relationship, which they are happy about. Unfortunately, many teenagers do not realize that anyone can hide behind a computer. That is why it is important that you talk to your child about the dangers of starting an online romance. 4 -- They Are Very Depressed As previously stated, your child may be very happy when using the internet, but another warning sign is that they are depressed, especially when they sign off the computer. What many parents do not realize is that other teenagers use the internet for harassment. If your teenager has a falling out with one of their friends, they may find themselves being harassed online. If that is the case, your child may seem very down, depressed, and withdrawn. The four above mentioned signs are just a few of the many that you will want to look for to see if your child is in trouble online. With that said, there are additional signs that you will want to be on the lookout for, the biggest being a change in behavior. If you do suspect that your child has or is about to run into trouble online, be sure to talk to them and as soon as possible. Should You Let Your Child Use an Internet Chat Room? Are you the parent of a child who has recently decided that they want to use internet chat rooms? Or, are you a parent who has just learned that your child has been using internet chat rooms? If you are, you may be unsure as to how you should proceed. Yes, internet chat rooms are a great way to make new friends online, but they can be dangerous. So, should you let your child use online chat rooms? When it comes to determining if your child is ready to use online chat rooms, it is best to examine the pros and cons of them. For starters, there are chat rooms out there that are designed for children and teenagers. By visiting these chat rooms, your child should be paired with their peers. They may also be able to make new online friends and communicate with their friends from school easily online. Meeting new friends online and communicating with current friends over the internet, by way of internet chat rooms, is nice. It, however, is also important to remember that there are dangers to doing so as well. For starters, it is important to remember that anyone can get into a chat room. Just because a chat room that your child uses is designed for kids between the ages of 8 and 15, it doesn't mean that everyone in that chat room falls into that age range. As for why it is easy for an adult to get into a chat room and pretend to be a child it is because not all internet chat rooms are monitored. With that said, you should be able to find a number of chat rooms for children and teens that are monitored. This means that an adult will be there watching all conversations to make sure that they are appropriate. Remember though that an adult pretending to be a child may be able to slide under the radar. As previously stated, an adult could easily pretend to be a child, enter a chat room for children, and target those in the room. This is easy for many internet predators to do because the internet makes it very simple for children to be targeted. A whole new, false identity can be created and you and your child may never know until it is too late. Despite the fact that there are a number of cons or downsides to letting children and teenagers use internet chat rooms, many parents still let their children do so. If you want to be one of those parents, that is fine, but be sure that both you and your child know the dangers that lurk. Make sure they know not to give out personal information in a chat room because the person on the other end of the computer may not be who they say they are. Also, for your child's protection, find internet chat rooms for them to use. Even if your child knows that dangers lurk, they may still opt for the most popular chat rooms, even if they aren't very safe. When searching for safe chat rooms for your child to use, start with a standard internet search. Next, look for those that have staffed monitors, as well as those that do not have private messaging features. For added safety and security, have your computer in a well trafficked location. This is likely to reduce the amount of time that they spend in a chat room, as they may feel like they are being watched. You can also limit the use of chat rooms unless you are home or in the same room. Of course, you can ban your child from visiting online chat rooms if you wish, as you do have the right to do so. As a reminder, be sure to talk to your child or teenager about the dangers of communicating with strangers on the internet. Having online friends are nice, but make sure your child knows that they should stay just that "online," friends. Rules to Set for Online Message Boards and Chat Rooms Is Your Child Ready for Their Own Email Account? Are you a parent? If you are, your child may be using the internet, if they aren't already doing so. While most children start out just using the internet for school research projects, there comes a point in time when most children want to start socializing with their friends online. When this point in time comes, your child may ask to have their own email address, but are they ready? When it comes to determining if your child is ready for their own email address, you have the final say, as the parent. With that said, there are a number of important factors that you will first want to take into consideration. A few of these factors are highlighted below. Your child's age should be taken into consideration, when trying to decide if you should give them their own email account. When your child has their own email account, you need to set rules. If a stranger happens to get their email address and emails them, do you trust your child to ignore the message? Will they abide by your rules to do so? If you do not think so, maybe your child should just share an email address with you for now. What your child intends to use their own email address for is also important. If your child is using online chat rooms, they may want to have an email address to give out to those who they meet online. As nice as this sounds, it is important to remember that some internet predators target chat rooms looking for children. That is why caution is advised. Make sure that your child only intends to use their email account to communicate with those that they know, like relatives or friends at school. If you pay for internet, you likely get free email accounts from your internet service provider. AOL, NetZero, and Verizon are just a few of the many internet service providers that handout free email addresses. It may be best to give your child one of these email addresses, as opposed to other free ones, like Hotmail or Yahoo. Why? Because you will typically find that email addresses provided by internet service providers get less junk mail. This reduces the chances of your child getting scamming emails or adult themed emails. Also, if you do decide to let your child have their own email address, you will want to help them set it up. What many parents do not realize is just how revealing an email address can be. For starters, make sure that your child chooses an email address that does not include their full name. Next, you may be required to fill out a profile. There are many free email programs, like Hotmail and Yahoo, that ask you to do so. Some of this information, like your child's name may be published. So use your best judgment or create a nickname for your child to use instead. As you can see, there are both a number of pros and cons to giving your child their own email address, especially if they are still relatively young in age. If you do make the decision, however, there are some steps that you will want to take to protect your child. Also, just make sure that you use your best judgment.
Internet Parental Controls: Why You Should Use Them Are you the parent of a teenager or a younger child who uses the internet? If you are, is your computer and the internet protected with parental controls? If not, this is something that you will want to do. Although many children are able to use the internet without running into any problems, like online harassment or communicating with an online predator, are you really willing to take the chance? If not, you should use parental controls. One of the many reasons why you should set parental controls is because you can protect your child when they are online. Although parental controls come in a number of different formats, most allow you to block websites that you don't want your child to view. This means that if you don't want your child to use MySpace or other social networking websites you can easily block them. Another reason you should have working parental controls on your child's computer is because they are easy to install. Most parental controls are self-explanatory. This means that even if you don't know how to use a computer, you can still get protection set. For example, if your computer uses Internet Explorer, all you need to do is open a new window and select "Internet Options," from the heading of "Tools." There, you will find a tab that is labeled "Content," and here is where you can set your parental controls. In addition being easy to install, parental controls are also often easy to find. In fact, many are also free. If you use Internet Explorer, as previously stated, parental controls are already built in. Another popular internet browser is that of FireFox. Although FireFox does not have built-in parental controls, they do make it easy for to find add-ons, many of which are free. Even if you must purchase a parental control program for your child, you should know that they costs are more than worth it. Unfortunately, many parents do not install parental controls, as they believe it will limit their own use of the internet. Just because you want your child to avoid websites that have crude language or violent themes, it doesn't necessarily mean that you don't want to view them. But, did you know that most internet controls for parents can be used on shared family computers? This is because they let you set up a password to override any websites that you would like to access. Since parental controls are often free or very affordable, easy to install, and a great way to keep kids safe, you should use them. However, before you get a false sense of confidence, there are some important things that you should know. First, know that many teenagers are computer smart. Your teen may actually know how to get around parental controls, even if they don't know your password. That is why you will occasionally want to check the computer. If you block a website, like MySpace.com, occasionally check it to make sure that it is still blocked. Speaking of having a password, be sure not to give this password to your child. If they need to gain access to a website that was accidentally blocked, like for a school research project, you will want to use the password yourself to unblock the website, even just temporarily. As nice and as mature as your child is, there are some who go through great lengths to be able to socialize online with other internet users. What to Do If Your Child Runs Into Trouble Online Are the parent of a child or teenager who uses the interenet? As much as we would all like to believe that are children are safe when using the internet, there are certain situations that may, unfortunately, arise. It is important to remember that most children use the internet to communicate with their friends or to make new friends, not just to do research for school projects. If your child finds themselves in trouble online and comes to you, do you know what you can or should do? As it was previously stated, numerous situations can develop online that have the potential to be dangerous. One of those situations is when personal information is exchanged with a stranger. Has your child recently given away your phone number, address, or their email address to someone who they don't really know? If so, be sure to change as much information as possible. This may involve changing your home phone number or your child's cell phone number or email address. Be sure to take additional safety steps, such as always being aware of your surroundings, locking your home and car, and you may also want to contact your local authorities. Be sure to talk to your child about the dangers of exchanging personal information online. In keeping with exchanging personal information online, your child may end up talking to an adult, thinking that they are another teenager or close to their age. If that is the case, your child is likely dealing with an internet predator, who can be old enough to be a parent or a grandparent. If your child has made contact, intentionally or unintentionally, with an older person online, has any personal information been exchanged? If so, change that information, like your child's email address, cell phone, or even if your home phone number. Make sure that the contact stops immediately. Contact the authorities, school officials, and make sure that all family members know. Get as much information you can about the real person behind the computer. The police may be able to help you do so. Many high school and junior high school students use social networking websites, like MySpace. Unfortunately, many also mistakenly believe that it is a good idea to try to look "cool," online and at any cost. Your child may post pictures or videos of themselves online doing illegal activities, like smoking or drinking underage, stealing, or doing drugs. If this is something that your child has done, be sure to remove the pictures or videos right away. If your child's pictures or videos have been viewed by school officials or authorities, they may be facing punishment. A lawyer should be called if your child is arrested. If your child is suspended from school or extra curricular activities, speak to school officials. What can be done by both you, the parent, and your child? Online harassment is another common problem that children, namely junior high school and high school students face. This harassment can be done by a complete stranger, an online friend, or a friend right at school. When friends have a falling out or even just a simple disagreement, many turn to the internet to seek revenge, as it is easy to hide behind a computer. If your child finds themselves a victim of online harassment, the authorities should be contacted. This is particularly important if your child does not actually know, in person, the individual who is making threats or spreading harmful rumors. If the individual doing so is a former friend or another individual at school, there are a number of steps that you can take. If you know the child and their parents, consider arranging a meeting, but be cautious and use your best judgment. Alternatives involve contacting the authorities or the school. As you can see, there are a number of troubling and potentially dangerous situations that your child can find themselves in online. Just make sure that you, as the parent, take steps to help and protect your child. The Importance of Discussing Internet Safety with Your Teen Are you a parent? If you are, have you already had the internet safety talk with your child? If you have yet to do so, this is a discussion that you will want to have. Since many teenagers like using social networking websites, online message boards, internet chat rooms, and instant messaging programs, internet safety is a subject that must be discussed. As nice as it is to hear that you should talk about internet safety and internet use in general with your child, you may be curious as to why it is important that you do so. For your convenience, just a few of the many reasons why you should have the internet safety talk with your child are outlined below. 1 -- They May Not Know How old is your child? If they are just starting to use the internet, they may be unaware of the dangers that lurk on many popular websites, including online chat rooms and social networking websites. If your child has just started using the internet to research school projects, be sure you discuss internet safety with them, as it won't be long before they realize that they can communicate with and make new friends online. 2 -- It Is Your Job, As the Parent Perhaps, the greatest reason why you should talk to your child about internet use and internet safety is because it is your job to do so. As a parent, it is your reasonability to guide and protect your child. Parents need to set some rules and guidelines with their children and the internet shouldn't be any different. You don't have to completely outlaw chat rooms, online message boards, or social networking websites, but be sure that you set clear cut rules that your child will understand concerning their use. 3 -- It Will Help to Keep Them Safe As much as we would all like to believe that the world is filled with nice, happy people, it isn't. Unfortunately, many of those people, who may be child predators, are finding it easy to target children online. Why? Because the internet enables anyone to create their own identity. While most internet users that you meet online are truthful, all it takes is one online predator to cause serious harm or damage to a family. When you talk to your child about the dangers of the internet, you are keeping them well aware, which can help to keep them safe. 4 -- You Can Teach Them What to Do As for teaching your child what to do online, there are a number of different aspects that should be examined. For starters, teach your child how to properly use the internet, especially chat rooms and social networking websites. Let them know that they cannot discuss personal information or share pictures or videos with strangers. You should also let your child know what to do if they are targeted or harassed by someone online. This should involve coming to you immediately or saving all information, as opposed to erasing it from the computer, until you or the police can examine it. 5 -- They Can Feel More Comfortable Talking to You If your child is in high school or junior high school, they may automatically get defensive when you try to talk to them about internet safety. This is because most kids believe that they already know all that is needed to know and others just assume that you are being an overbearing parent. Despite this, discussing internet safety with your child in a calm and cool manner is likely to make your teenager feel comfortable about the issue. This increases the chances of them approaching you when they run into trouble online. As you can see, there are a number of reasons why you should talk to your child about internet safety. Although this piece focused on discussing internet safety with teenagers, remember that internet safety is a lesson that can and should be started as soon as your child turns a computer on. How to Set Parental Controls with Internet Explorer Are you the parent of a child or a teen who uses the internet? If you are, there is a good chance that you use Internet Explorer for your browser, as it comes standard on most computers. The good news is that if you are using Internet Explorer, which has the blue colored e icon, it is easy for you to set parental controls. These parental controls can block your child from viewing dangerous content online. As nice as it is to hear that you can limit the websites that your child or teenager gains access to online, you may be curious as to how you can go about doing so. As it was previously stated, the process is relatively easy. Outlined below are a few steps to help get you started. 1 -- Open a new Internet Explorer window. You can do this by clicking on that blue e icon that was mentioned above. 2 -- Click on "Tools," from the drop down menu bar at the top of the page. 3 -- Click on "Internet Options," and a new smaller window will appear. 4 -- Click on the "Content," tab, as this is where you are able to set the controls. 5 -- Under the heading of "Content Advisor," you will see an enable button, click on it and a new window will appear. By following the above mentioned steps, you should get the point where you are able to enter in your preferences. You may first want to start with the ratings. Click on the "Ratings," tab. When using the ratings feature that is provided through Internet Explorer, you will see at least four main headings, which include language, sex, nudity, and violence. You are able to determine what can be viewed on your computer based on levels. For example, Level 1 for violence is fighting, Level 2 is killing, Level 3 is blood and gore, and so forth. Remember that you can readjust these ratings at any point in time. If you use the internet safety rating features that are provided by Internet Explorer, it is important to know that some sites can innocently be blocked. For example, a site that simply mentions the words "violence," or "kill," may be blocked, even if they are not violent websites. For that reason, you may need to make some adjustments. This can easily be done by clicking on the "Approved Sites," tab. When you click on the "Approved Sites," tab you are able to enter in the websites that you would like to have viewable. This feature is nice to have if your child or teenager is using a family computer, like one that you and your spouse may also use. It addition to listing approved sites, you can also list the websites that you want to never make viewable. This is ideal if you are prohibiting your child from using a social networking website, like MySpace. Aside from adding the websites that you and other adults in your household view to the approved sites list, you can also use a password. You can create a password for your computer and the parental controls by click on the "General," tab. Create a password that is easy for you and the rest of the adults in your household to remember, but one that is hard enough that your child or teen can't figure out themselves. In fact, do not give your child the password. An adult in your home can use it if they ask to have a safe site unblocked. As you can see, it is relatively easy to protect your child online with the use of internet safety tools when using Internet Explorer. The many options that you have are also nice. Since the above mentioned tools and features are free for you to use, why not at least give them a try? If you are not using Internet Explorer, but rather another browser, like FireFox, you should be able to take similar steps to block potentially harmful or dangerous content from your internet using child. Internet Safety: What to Do When Your Child Will Not Follow Your Rules Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who uses the internet? If you are, you likely have internet safety rules already in place. If you do, how well is your child at following them? When it comes to internet safety rules that you have set in place, it is important that your child follows them. Why? Because their health and safety is, literally, at risk. Not following your internet safety rules should be treated differently than a child who doesn't clean their room. The situation is much more serious. If your child doesn't follow the rules that you have set concerning internet use, they may unintentionally find themselves a target of a child predator. What you will want to do is re-talk to your child. Be sure that they are clear on your rules. For example, if your child is allowed to use social networking websites, what are they not allowed to have posted on their profile? Do you not want them to have personal information or personal pictures or videos shown? Restate all rules that you have for your child and instruct them to start following them right away. If your child still isn't following your internet safety rules all of the way, you will want to give them one final warning. Let them know that there are serious consequences to their actions. However, there is one important exception to this step. If you suspect that your child is communicating with strangers online, like those who may be sexual predators, bypass the final warnings, as your child may already be in over their head. As for what steps you should take next, you can ban your child from using the internet. This is the strictest form of punishment and likely the one that will send the clearest message. If your child must use the internet for school, like for a school research project, only let them do so when you are sitting right next to them. You can also make them do their research at their local library. This is a great way to make your child understand the importance and consequences of not following rules. Another approach that you can take is to block the websites that you want to keep your child away from. For example, if you asked your child or teenager not to post personal pictures or videos of themselves online, but they still continue to do so, block the social networking websites that they use. If you have Internet Explorer, this is easy to do. First, open a new internet window. Then, from the dropdown menu select "Tools," and then "Internet Options," and then click on the "Content Tab." Finally, under the heading of "Approved Sites," you can also enter in the websites you want blocked. You may also want to let your child use the computer when you are home or in the room. If they have their own computer, make them relocate it into a well traveled area, such as your living room. Speaking of which, if your child uses a family computer, you should always make sure that it is in an area where you can easily see what your child is doing online. This is a nice approach, as your child is still able to use the internet, but you are able to keep a close eye on them, making sure that they are following your rules. Internet Safety Tools that Can Protect Your Child If you are the parent of a child or a teenager who uses the internet, do you take steps to protect them? If not, you will want to start right away. Although the internet can be neat for your child, it is important to remember that there are dangers that lurk online. Since there are dangers that lurk online, such as the potential for meeting an online predator and the potential of being harassed online, you may be curious as to how you can protect your child. Of course, you will want to discuss internet safety with your child and you will also want to set rules for your child to follow, but did you also know that you have other options? One of those options is internet safety tools. What is nice about internet safety tools that are designed for parents is that you have so many options. Typically, you will find that most of these tools fall under the heading of parental controls. For information on ways that you can protect your child with the use of internet safety tools, please continue reading on. The ability to rate websites and set levels for what you want your child to view online is an option that you have. This often is featured in the safety tools that are provided by Internet Explorer, as well as other similar internet browsers. What you do is decide what type of content your want your child to view. Would you like to keep your child away from internet websites that use crude or violent language? If you do, set your website level ratings to say so and the websites should automatically be blocked. In addition to blocking websites through the use of website rating tools, you also have the ability to outright block websites. This is another option that Internet Explorer gives you. For example, if you would like to block social networking websites, like MySpace and Facebook, all you need to do is enter in the website address and hit the block option. Internet Explorer also gives you the option to let a list of approved websites. Keyword trackers can also be used; however, there are some individuals, including other parents, who consider them to be an invasion of privacy. That is why it is important for you to use your best judgment and make the decision as a parent. Keyword trackers work by recording each word that is typed by your child. Many parents find keyword tracker programs a great way to catch their child if they think that they are communicating with someone older or a sexual predator online. Keyword tracker programs are a nice option to have, but they do need to be purchased, as they aren't free like many other parental controls. There are also internet safety tool programs out there that work to keep your personal information safe. This is a great way to make sure that your child doesn't share personal information about themselves with strangers online. Although these programs do vary, you can usually enter in information that you want to prevent your child from sharing online, like your phone number, email address, or home address. The program, if it works properly, should catch the information before it is sent. As you can see, you have a number of different options when looking to use parental controls to keep your child safe when they use the internet. Additional online safety tools can easily be found with a standard internet search. Easy Ways to Stay Involved In Your Child's Internet Use Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who uses the internet? If you are, do you know the importance of staying involved and in the know about your child's internet use? Better yet, do you know how you can stay involved in your child's use of the internet? If not, it is important that you take the time to familiarize yourself. As nice as it is to hear that you should be active, involved, and in the know when it comes to your child or teenager and the internet, you may be wondering what is so important about doing so. Although you may use the internet to search for jobs online or pay your bills, it is important to remember that there is so much more out there. Your child can and may be doing more than just doing research for a school project. They may be using online chat rooms, private instant messaging programs, and social networking websites. As for why online chat rooms, private instant messaging programs, and social networking sites are dangerous, it is important to remember that the internet makes it easy to pretend to be someone else. Your child may unknowingly end up making a 50 year old friend, thinking that friend is their own age. Information posted online has also been used for harassment or harmful purposes when otherwise high school or junior high school friends have a falling out. Now that you know the importance of staying updated and in the know about your child's internet use, you may be curious as to how you can go about doing so. The good news is that it is relatively easy to do so. The first step is to make sure that you are computer literate yourself. Do you know how to check your computer's internet history? Better yet, do you even know what a computer's internet history is or does? If not, you will want to take a computer course or ask a trusted friend or relative, other than your child, to give you a crash course. You will want to learn as much as you can about the internet and a computer, but be sure to know about parental controls, a computer's internet history, and so forth. Speaking of checking your computer's internet history, be sure that you do so. Your computer's internet history records all of the websites that are visited within the last week or past few days. To do so, open up a new Internet Explorer window. Towards the top of the page you should see a number of icons. Click on the one that has a clock with a green arrow partly around it. This should be the computer's internet history. What websites has your teenager or child visited? Another easy way to stay involved in your child's internet use is to set parental controls. Most computers come standard with them. Make your parental controls password protected. Do not give your child the password, but do use it to unlock websites that may innocently be blocked on accident, like those needed for a school research project. Moving your child's computer into a family room or a frequently traveled room is advised. In fact, your child should be able to use a shared family computer. This tends to limit the visiting of potential dangerous chat rooms and social networking websites, as most teens like to view these sites in private. If you must, limit your child's use of the computer to certain times, like when you are home or in the room. Be sure to talk to your child about the dangers of the internet. Let them know that it is possible to meet internet predators online, especially with the use of private chat rooms or social networking websites. Let them know that if they are harassed, whether it be by someone they know or don't know, contact you immediately. You may, in turn, want to contact the proper authorities. 5 Reasons Why the Internet Can Be Dangerous for Children and Teens Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who wants to use the internet, if they don't already? If so, you may have some concerns. Yes, it is typically safe for your child to use the internet to do research for school projects, but did you also know that children and teens are now using it to communicate with their friends or other internet users? This is how and when using the internet at a young age can become a problem. As important as it is to hear that your child can find themselves in trouble online, if you do not know what internet safety steps can help to protect them, you may be looking for more information. You also may be curious as to what it is about the internet that can be so dangerous. For your convenience, five reasons why internet use can be dangerous for children and teenagers are highlighted below. 1 -- False Identities Are Easy to Create Making new friends online is easy and convenient, but it is much different than doing so in person. Why? Because you can't see who is at the other end of the computer. The internet makes it easy for someone to be anyone else in the world. For example, if your child is using social networking websites online, they have to enter in their age. They could easily lie themselves or they could be talking to someone else who is. 2 -- Internet Predators As it was previously stated, the internet makes it easy to create a new, false identity. Often times, the individuals who lie about their ages are internet predators. They are the ones who target children, like yours. Unfortunately, many children, teenagers, and their parents cannot tell an internet predator until it is too late, like when the predators try to approach your child or contact them in person. 3 -- So Many Websites To Choose From What is nice about the internet is that you have so many websites to choose from. In fact, that is why it is a good way to research school projects. With that said, having so many websites to choose from can be dangerous. Your child can gain access to social networking websites, adult chat rooms, pornographic websites, and websites that are violent in nature. Unless you have parental controls set up, your child can easily access any type of website with a standard internet search. 4 -- Not All Information Is Private Unfortunately, many individuals, including both children and parents, do not know that the information that is posted online isn't always private. For starters, most teens have their MySpace profiles set to public, as opposed to private. This means that anyone can view it. There are also online message boards that are indexed by the search engines. This means that others can view the conversations that were discussed, even years down the road. 5 -- They Are In Control When your child uses the internet, they are the ones who are in control. This can be okay if your child is older and mature, but you honestly never know. You may ask your child not to communicate with strangers online, give out their phone numbers, or share pictures with strangers, but that doesn't mean that they will follow your rules. For that reason, if you do let your child use the internet, be sure to monitor their use. Should You Let Your Child Post Pictures and Videos Online? Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who uses the internet, namely social networking websites like MySpace? If you are, your child may be interested in posting pictures or videos of themselves online, if they haven't already done so. Should you let them? When it comes to determining if you should let your child post personal pictures and videos of themselves online, you, as the parent, should have the final say. With that said, it is first important to examine the pros and cons of letting your child post these items online. Pictures and videos are common on social networking websites, like MySpace and Facebook. In all honesty, the only true pro or plus side to letting your child post videos or pictures of themselves online is because it is what your child wants to do. Letting them post their pictures and videos online will likely make your child happy. They can easily share videos and pictures with friends, as opposed to actually bringing them to school. As much as your child or teenager may want to post personal pictures or videos of themselves online, it is also important to know that there are many cons or downsides to doing so. One of those is the wrong impression. Say you have a teenager daughter who posts a picture of herself wearing a low-cut shirt online. Even though no cleavage is showing, the picture can create the wrong impression. Sexual online predators may think she is welcoming attention, and so forth. You and your child need to know that not everyone interprets things the same way. Speaking of the wrong impression, it is important to know that pictures and videos can easily fall into the wrong hands online. If your child is using a social networking website, like MySpace, is their profile set to private? If not, anyone with their own account can view their private and personal pictures and videos. Your child may be interested posting pictures and videos to share with their friends, but that doesn't meant that others can't see them. Unfortunately, those others can have impure intentions. Another con or downside to letting your child post personal pictures and videos of themselves online is that they are easy to copy. Yes, a picture or a video can be taken down, but did you know that it may already be too late? People can easily copy and repost or copy and save videos and pictures that are posted online for whatever reason, including their own personal pleasure. As you can see, there are a number of pros and cons to letting your child post pictures and videos of themselves online, namely on social networking websites. As the parent, the decision is yours to make, but be sure to use your best judgment. When it doubt, the best answer may be no. If you do decide to let your child or teenager post personal pictures and videos of themselves online or if you already think that they do, be sure to check them. Ask to see the photos yourself. Make sure that your child is well covered in any photographs that they post. As for videos, make sure they aren't doing anything illegal, like stealing, or showing anything suggestive, even if it is simply meant as an inside joke among friends. Children and Online Chat Rooms: The Dangers That Lurk Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who wants to use internet chat rooms? Or, is your child already using them? If so, it is important that both you and your child know the dangers that often lurk around online chat rooms. For starters, it is important to know that the computer and internet makes it easy for someone to be anyone they want to. In fact, an internet user can claim to be someone famous, a superhero, or another teenager. There is nothing out there that can stop them. If your child is using a chat room for teenagers or younger children, they need to know the dangers of exchanging personal information with strangers or "online friends." Because, anyone can be at the other end of the computer. Another common danger of using online chat rooms is the screen names. Screen names are what is used to identity your child and differentiate them from other chat room users. If you allow your child to use an online chat room, there is one internet safety step that must be taken. Have your child create a separate screen name that will not be used elsewhere. If they use part of their email address, a screen name that appears on other websites or online message boards, or part of their full name, a standard internet search could lead internet predators to your child's real identity. It is also important to know that anyone can get into a chat room. Unfortunately, this is an important internet safety fact that many parents do not realize. Just because your teenager is in an online chat room that is designed for kids between the ages of 14 to 17, it doesn't mean that everyone is the same age in the room. No age verification is required to get into most online chat rooms. As it was previously stated, the internet makes it easy for anyone to create a false identity. This false identity can be used to lure in your child and other young internet users. One of the reasons why children and teenagers like to use internet chat rooms is because it automatically connects them with a number of other internet users. In fact, an online chat room could have as many as one hundred or more internet users talking in it. Unfortunately, many parents do not realize that some chat rooms have private messaging programs available. This means that a person, who may actually be a 50 or 60 years old man or woman, could send a private message and communicate directly with your child. This is actually how many teenagers and children get into trouble with online predators. As you can see, there are a number of dangers that lurk around internet chat rooms. Does this mean that your child shouldn't use them? In all honesty, the decision is yours to make, as you are the parent. With that said, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, such as your child's age and maturity level. Do you trust your child to follow the rules that you set in place concerning internet use and the use of online chat rooms? Speaking of rules, be sure to have them if you let or know that your son or daughter is using internet chat rooms. Do not let them visit chat rooms that are designed for adults only. This makes them an easy target. Also, be sure they know that just because someone claims to be a 15 year old boy or girl, it doesn't mean that they are. They should also never send out pictures or videos of themselves, even when asked, and no other personal information should be exchanged. If internet chat rooms concern you, which they should, you may want to point your child in the direction of online message boards instead. Online message boards, also commonly referred to as online forums, are different as the information appears as separate posts, as opposed to live chats. While there are no guarantees, you will find that most online message boards, especially those that are designed for children and teenagers are monitored by a trusted adult. This means that offensive posts should be removed in a timely matter. How to Discuss Internet Safety with Your Teen Are you the parent of a teenager who uses the internet? If you are, have you already had the internet safety talk with your teenager? If you haven't, it is time for that talk to occur. As nice as it is to be able to use the internet for school research projects or to communicate with friends online, it is important to remember that the internet can also be a danger to children and teenagers. As nice as it is to hear that you should talk to your teenager about internet safety, you may be curious as to how you can go about doing so. Brining up the subject can be hard, as your teen may automatically become defensive. The good news is that you do have a number of different options. One of those options is to just go for it. When you outright discuss internet safety with your teenager, make sure that you pick a good time to have the talk. Don't start ranting right away about your teen's internet use and the dangers after a disagreement or when tensions are already high. With teenagers, this can lead to other problems. It may cause your teenager to not listen to you just for the point of not listening or they may purposely defy you. Another option that you have, when looking to discuss internet safety with your child, is to wait until your child gets off the computer. When they walk away, ask them if they know about being safe online and the dangers that the internet has. This is a great opener, when your child is already using the computer. It may make you sound less like an overprotective, overbearing parent, at least in the eyes of your teenager. When discussing internet safety with your teenager, it is important to not assume that your child already knows. Even if your child stops you and tells you they already know how to be safe online, don't stop. Be sure to restate your point and establish any internet rules you would like your child to follow. It is important to remember that many teenagers think they know everything, but many don't. For example, your child may know that there are internet predators out there, but do they also know that pictures of them smoking or drinking underage could get them suspended from school or even arrested, no matter how "cool," they look on a MySpace page? Speaking of MySpace, it is important to know what you should talk to your child about. Since many teenagers use MySpace and other similar social networking websites, they should be discussed. Make sure your child knows that anyone can hide behind a computer, even a sexual predator. Also, let them know the dangers of posting personal information and pictures on their social networking profiles. In addition to social networking websites, like MySpace, internet chat rooms should also be discussed. Internet chat rooms are different, but similar in nature to instant messaging programs, like AOL or MSN. Generally speaking, instant messaging programs are safer for teens to use, as they aren't automatically paired up and thrown into a chat room with other internet users, who are essentially strangers. As with social networking websites, make sure that your child knows that they could, essentially, be talking to anyone. Tell them to get out of a chat room right away if the tone turns sexual in nature or if they receive a private message from someone who makes them feel uncomfortable. You may also want to discuss personal blogs. Many websites, like Blogger.com and WordPress.com allow internet users to start free blogs. Many teens find this a nice and easy way to vent or allow their friends to stay up-to-date on their thoughts. Your teenager needs to know that anyone can view these blogs, so their information really isn't private and personal, say as a handwritten journal. As you can see, there are a number of different ways that you can go about discussing internet safety with your teenager. Remember to do so, however, before it is too late. Any child who uses the internet should be well aware of the dangers that lurk.
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