Many parents know about the importance of educating their children about stranger danger. Children are taught early on not to talk to strangers or accept gifts or rides from strangers. Parents need to extend those lessons to the cyber world.
It's estimated that some 77 million children will be online by 2005. And many of the dangers that exist in the real world extend to the online environment. There are things parents can do to protect their children and their online experience.
Teach your child about the dangers.
The three greatest dangers children face on the Internet are:
- Exposure to sexual or violent material
Exposure to material occurs most often while children are surfing the Web.
Harassment and sexual solicitation occur most often in chat rooms and while using discussion or bulletin boards.
- Sexual Predators
Sexual predators use chat and instant messaging as their primary tools in contacting your child.
Know what your child is doing online.
One of the best ways for parents to protect their children's Internet experience is to become involved. Parents should know what Web sites their children frequently visit and the technologies they use. Does your child download games from the Web and are they using instant messaging? Parents need to understand these technologies as well.
Also, parental controls, filtering and blocking software allow parents to monitor activity and maintain some control over their child's Internet experience.
Report anything suspicious
The majority of incidents involving online sexual solicitation or exploitation of a child go unreported. Parents need to encourage their children to tell them if they are approached online by a stranger or if they see anything online that frightens or bothers them. And then parents need to act by reporting the incident to their Internet Service Provider, the FBI and their local police.
Each FBI office, including the Norfolk office, has at least two designated Crimes Against Children Coordinators to investigate crimes.
Parents can also submit reports on the Web via the CyberTipline. The CyberTipline is a joint effort by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the FBI and several other organizations. Each report submitted on cybertipline is forwarded to law enforcement for investigation.