Internet Predators

Question

I saw the Dateline NBC news story on Internet Predators and I am sufficiently concerned about the Internet in my house. What can I do to protect my children?

-Janice

Answer

This question was answered on February 9, 2006. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

For any parent that did not see the Dateline NBC special To Catch A Predator III, I would highly recommend a visit to the MSNBC website ( MSNBC.MSN.com) to watch the posted videos on the most recent roundup of Internet predators.

In a 3-day period, 51 different individuals showed up to a home in Riverside expecting to have a sexual encounter with a 12 or 13 year old child that was supposedly home alone The transcripts for every encounter showed that the predators clearly knew that they were communicating with a young child, or so they thought.

We are often approached by parents that feel like they dont stand a chance of controlling a technology of which their children have a much better grasp They are looking for a quick software download to become the babysitter, but software filters are only a component of the solution (and they can be compromised).

The bottom line for any parent in the Internet age is that you must take the time to educate yourself about this technology or not allow it in your home.

You would not allow a 40-year old stranger to walk right into your house and right into your childs room in the real world, but millions of parents are allowing this to happen in the virtual world every single day.

The single biggest mistake made by parents is placing an Internet connected computer in a childs room (especially under the age of 16) where they can lock the door and wonder off into any part of the Internet without any limits or supervision.

A common mistake that many kids make (especially younger ones) is that they post too much personally identifiable information on their online profiles or worse post alluring pictures of themselves, which also attracts the predators Predators any information they can to manipulate children into thinking that they can be trusted.

Instant messaging and social networking websites like MySpace.com are target rich environments for sexual predators By posing as another teen or a slightly older person, they attempt to develop a relationship with the expressed purpose of manipulating them into a sexual encounter

This does not mean that all Instant Messaging and online buddies are predators, but a recent Pew Study suggests that 89% o solicitations occur in chat rooms and Instant messages

Educating yourself and getting involved with your childs online activities are the best advice that I can give and starting them off early with keen awareness of the dangers is key

We have posted a free Safe Surfing guide for parents (DataDoctors.com/Parents) that covers issues like warning signs that your child may be having a problem with the Internet, common mistakes parents make, a Family Contract for Internet Use and an Internet Glossary with common chat lingo.

In addition, as a public service, parents that are concerned about what their kids may be doing online can bring their computer into any Data Doctors location in the country for a free review of what is on the system and what your children might be doing online and if the system is capable of using it, load a free trial version of a parental control program and give instructions on how to use it.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on February 9, 2006