Children may be at a much higher risk of becoming victims of Internet crimes than most parents realize. While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, it can also open the door to dangerous sexual predators, cyberbullying and interactions with financial and legal consequences.
Some of the key risks facing children online today include:
• Exposure to inappropriate material. Unsuitable material that is sexual, hateful or violent in nature is frequently circulated online.
• Physical molestation. According to a recent study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact. Providing personal information and arranging a face-to-face meeting can jeopardize the safety of the entire family.
• Harassment. According to a Pew Research Center study on bullying, one in three teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced online harassment. Online relationships can become more harassing, demeaning, and aggressive than personal ones.
• Financial and legal consequences. Children can find themselves in situations where they have compromised a parent's financial information or another person's rights without knowing it.
Here are some tips on how to help keep your children safe in this hi-tech world:
• Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom.
• Use parental controls from your Internet provider or blocking software; however, do not rely on this as the only form of monitoring.
• Communicate with your child about online dangers and encourage them to share their online experiences with you on a regular basis.
• Always maintain access to your child's account and randomly check browser history, external hard drives and flash drives, cloud back-up systems and emails.
• Teach your child responsible use of the web and limit their time online.
• Research what computer safeguards are being used in your child's school, public libraries, and in close friends' homes.