Source: Child Safety Solutions, Inc.

Approximately one in five youths ages 10-17 received an unwanted sexual solicitation over the internet according to the Youth Internet Safety Project.*

Below are the steps you can take to help protect your children from online predators.

Talk About Online Safety:

  • Set up and discuss rules with your child about going online. Bookmark sites you believe are safer for your child to visit. Block chat rooms until you believe your child is old enough to understand the risks and participate responsibly. For example, children need to understand that some people in a chat room may not be honest about who they are or why they are there.
  • Make sure your child knows to check with you before he or she gives out any personal information over the internet, including names, addresses, phone numbers, schools, parents’ place of employment, or teams he or she plays on.
  • If your children receive or see anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable, scared, or confused, they need to tell you about it.
  • Teach your child to never send his or her picture over the internet without checking with you first.
  • Make sure your child knows to get your approval first, before agreeing to meet with anyone he or she meets online.

Take Practical Steps:

  • Keep your home computer is an open, common area, not in a child’s bedroom.
  • Consider sharing an email address with your child so you can monitor his or her messages.
  • If your child has a separate Internet account, maintain access and randomly check your child’s email. Discuss this with your child in advance and explain why you need to be aware of where they go online and whom they talk with.
  • Select a screen name and/or email address together that does not reveal your child’s identity.
  • Spend time with your child online; ask your child to show you sites he or she likes to visit.
  • Use the filtering controls offered by your Internet Service Provider, and/or additional filtering or blocking software.
  • Be aware of the safeguards in place on other computers your child may have access to, including at school, the library, or a friend’s home.

Watch for Warning Signs:

  • If you enter a room and your child suddenly switches screens or turns off the computer, ask questions until you find out what your child did not want you to see.
  • If your child is spending many hours online and frequenting chat rooms, more closely monitor the places they visit and limit the amount of time spent using the Internet.
  • If you find pornography on your child’s computer, contact local law enforcement or the FBI. Keep the computer turned off to preserve evidence that can help law enforcement identify the offender. Recognize that your child most likely is not at fault and is the victim. Listen to your child and offer your support.
  • If your child receives phone calls from people you don’t know, makes long distance calls you do not recognize, or receives unexplained mail or gifts, talk with your child about your concerns and monitor his or her computer more closely.
  • If your child withdraws from the family or you notice sudden changes in his or her behavior, including nightmares, loss of appetite, and/or disruptive behavior, discuss your concerns with your child and consult a professional.

For more information, visit http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm and view the FBI’s publication, A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.

*”The Youth Internet Safety Survey is a telephone survey of national sample of 1,501 youth, ages 10-17, and their parents”. The survey was funded by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.” http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/youth_internet_safety_survey.html

For more information, visit www.imsafe.com.