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Protecting your child from Online Predators

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July 2003
Protecting your child from Online Predators

BY JOSHUA F. FINER, MBA

Did you know... one out of five kids has been sexually solicited online? That one out of four kids has been sent a picture of naked people or people having sex online? On May 21, 2002 there was the first death of a child linked directly to an Internet Predator.

You have probably taught your child not to talk to strangers, and in many situations, they would remember this. But the Internet is different. Due to the Internet's anonymity, strangers are talking to children all the time. They try to gain the child's trust by having friendly conversation at first, but over time, their true objective of sexually soliciting the child becomes evident. Children and parents alike are unaware of this, yet this is exactly what is going on via the Internet.

Now that school is out and summer vacations are here, many kids will be spending an increasing amount of time online. What can parents do to protect their kids from Internet dangers? Armed with information, there's quite a bit a parent can do.

Top 5 Internet Safety Tips:

1. Tell your child to NEVER EVER reveal their name, address, phone number or any other personal information to ANYONE online. Once you give out this information, it is impossible to retract.

2. Communicate regularly (not just once) with your child about WHAT they do online and WHO they talk to online. If you have actually met the friends they are talking to in person, you'll know it is OK for them to chat with them online.

3. Take computers out of kids' rooms and put them into public areas such as the family room. Many parents think they are helping with homework by giving the kids a computer, but it also opens certain dangers that you may be unaware of.

4. Choose your child's screen name, email address or instant message name wisely - don't' reveal ages, sex, hobbies, and CERTAINLY NOT suggestive or sexy names.

Predators are more likely to pursue a child with the screen name "sexyteen5" than "happygirl5".

5. Use technology to help you protect your child. Monitoring software gives you the ability to review your child's Internet usage. Even if you don't look at each and every email or instant message they send, you'll have a good idea if they are making smart choices online.

The Internet can open many doors and provide useful information for children. An aware and informed parent can help keep children safe. o

[Joshua F. Finer is the President of Software4Parents.com]


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