Today's children have almost unlimited access to the Internet. Whether it is through a laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone, at home, at a friend's or at school, with a couple of clicks, they are surfing the web. In addition to limiting your child's Internet use, it is important to understand the real online dangers so you can develop safety rules for your children to follow.
According to the Microsoft article, " Safety And Security -Online predators: Help Minimize the Risk," online predators search for victims on social media pages, in chat rooms and by email. Once your child is targeted, the predator will give her lots of attention, and will lie about his age, even going so far as to post a young person's photo and pretend it is him. After your child is comfortable, the predator will introduce sexual material, discussions and suggestions. In addition, the predator may encourage your child to keep the friendship a secret, because it is "special" and at some point may ask your child to sneak out to meet him, which of course puts your child at risk for many dangers. Talking openly with your child about what can happen and that bad adults will lie to meet children, can help keep her safe. Make it a rule to tell you anytime someone new tries to approach her online.
Chat rooms present a real danger for children according to " Safety And Security -Online predators: Help Minimize the Risk." Chat rooms typically provide "private rooms" or "whisper rooms" where two people can have a one-on-one chat. Such chats prevent monitors and other attendees from seeing what is being said. This presents a prime opportunity for a predator to manipulate, charm and convince a child to keep their communication secret. The predator can then begin introducing sexually explicit ideas, suggest secret meetings and ultimately groom the child to be assaulted. Ask your child to not enter chat rooms and to tell you right away if anyone tries to instant message, private message or invites them to chat.
"Top 5 Internet dangers for kids: A resource guide," an article on CNET.com, lists cyber-bullying as a real danger to children. In cyber-bullying, the bully uses social media sites, email and other online tools to bully their target. Sometimes, online bullies take the bullying to real life, which can present a physical danger to the target. Not only do they bully the target, they often recruit others to join in the bullying. Let you child know that cyber-bullies are just like real life bullies and if she encounters one, she should (1) ignore the bullying and not respond in any way, and (2) tell an adult what is happening.
Children don't stop and think about the fact that everything they put on their social media page is seen by others. Even if their friends are trustworthy, a dangerous adult could be in the room when the friend is viewing your child's page. Many children proudly list their school name, or talk about getting ready to go to the game. This opens the door for kidnap and assault. Encourage your child to stop and think about each thing written before hitting the post button. She should ask herself if a stranger read what was written, could the stranger find her? If so, it should not be posted. A photo on the page and a street name or school name is all it takes to access a victim.
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