Many children use the Internet every day, yet parents may not realize what information their children are sharing online, what content they are viewing, or what software they are downloading.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 34 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds had posted their real names, telephone numbers, home addresses, or the names of their schools online, and 45 percent had posted their dates of birth or their ages. Plus, one third of young Internet users (34 percent) had an unwanted exposure to sexual material.
Consumer Reports also says that younger children are more likely to click on links that would expose computers to malware (malicious software) and viruses.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) offers parents the following signs that a child might be at risk on the Internet:
- Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
- Your child is secretive about his or her online activities.
- You find pornography on your child’s or family's computer.
- Your child receives phone calls from people you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
- Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
- Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen when you enter the room.
- Your child is using an online account that belongs to someone else.
The FBI also offers parents steps to protect their children and to encourage safe Internet use:
- Talk to your child about online dangers and teach them about responsible use of online resources.
- Spend time with your child online. Ask to see your child’s favorite websites.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house. Make sure the screen is visible to you at all times.
- Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.
- Monitor your child’s online use, especially on social networking sites or chat rooms.
- Randomly check your child’s e-mail account.
- Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child’s school, by your public library, and at the homes of your child’s friends.
- Tell your child to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone he or she met online and never to give out identifying information, such as name, home address, telephone number, or school name.
If you or your child receives harassing, intimidating, or pornographic communications, call your local law enforcement agency and contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.
Federal Bureau of Investigation
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
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