Making online friends is fun for children. Although you should not discourage your children from making online friends, you should caution your children about what kind of personal information they share with their friends online and also, make them aware of the activities that will put them at risk.
As a parent, you need to be aware of the danger signs that may possibly lead to your child becoming a prey. Here are some indicators to watch out for:
- Your child quickly changes the computer screen or switches off the computer, when you enter the room. This may possibly mean that your child is trying to hide something from you.
Your child spends an extraordinary amount of time in front of the computer. Most victims are heavy users of the Internet.
- You find pornographic pictures on your computer. Many online predators use dirty pictures to seduce their victims.
Your child receives phone calls or mail packages from strangers. This is a sign that the predator is trying to further build up the relationship and attempting to move it into the real world.
Usually children who feel lonely or psychologically insecure are at a higher risk from online predators, who use this vulnerability to exploit them. Children who are new to the Internet are also at high risk.
You need to make your children understand that there are a lot of dangers online. Keeping an eye on your children can be a painstaking job, and often it is almost impossible to completely shield them from online predators. However, here are a few general guidelines to protect your children from being victims:
- Take as much interest in you child’s online friends as you take with his/her real world friends. Get to know more about them.
- Limit the amount of time that your children spend online by setting some form of time limit or guideline.
- Move your computer to a "public" area of your house. In other words, move it into the living room, hall, corridor etc. If you're always around when they're on the computer, your kid is less likely to do "nefarious deeds".
Talk freely with your children about the dangers of the Internet and the dangers of physically meeting someone that they meet online.
Make sure your children understand that people are not always what they appear to be online. Explain to them that one can always fake his personality on the Internet.
- Forbid your children from physically meeting or speaking on the phone with someone that they have met online.
- Use software that keeps track of your child's surfing activity. Hence, you can monitor the websites that your child visits and his chat sessions.
- Instruct your children not to respond to messages that are threatening or obscene in nature. Ensure that they are comfortable enough to inform you when they receive such a message or feel intimidated by someone that they have met online.
Do not allow your children from sharing their personal information with strangers that they meet online.
- Do not hesitate to contact the authorities if you suspect that you child is in danger.
In a nutshell, your child should understand the dangers of the Internet and should not view it as a mere ‘plaything’.
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