Remember, if you can find it, so can your kids. Probably even before you do. If you haven't ever encountered objectionable material on the internet, you've probably never been on it. There is a wealth of information on there, some good, some bad. I've never really warmed up to the concepts of chat rooms and instant messaging. I used to think that maybe I was alone on this, but then I heard on the news that Microsoft, of all places, is shutting down it's chat rooms. The reason... child safety. Yea Microsoft, it wasn't just me that had a hard time weighing the benefits versus the risks.Apparently Microsoft has acknowledged that there is very little protection for children, and that this type of communication is very attractive to child molesters looking for new victims. It provides the bad guys with the ability to literally reach right into your home and grab your kids, one lie at a time. They can pretend to be whoever they want, and our kids are pretty easily fooled, for that matter so are we. I am very thankful that a big business could look past the bottom line and make the tough and potentially unpopular decision to do the right thing. However, I'm quite sure there are many more chat rooms from other providers that will live on. Where there's a will there's a way, and believe me, if you've never had to deal with any of these child molesters, you have no idea what kind of will they have. Which brings me to my point, no one can protect your kids better than you.
If we as adults often don't understand the risks involved with Internet activity, then how can our kids? Parents simply can't allow their kids to make all the decisions on what they will or will not do on the Internet. We have to remember that it doesn't hurt to tell kids no once in awhile, even if, "all my friends get to!"
You should know what sites your kids are on, and you should NOT let your kids be in chat rooms without your close, read that as 'looking over their shoulder', attention. I don't think there's anything wrong with letting your 10 year old get on a children's website and play games with you in the next room. That is as long as you peek in unannounced every once in awhile to make sure that's what they're doing, AND you've already checked out the site yourself. Hey, they're your kids, and you have the right to know what they're doing.
As kids get older, their interests change, and you should talk to them about what to do if they encounter bad things, and stress to them that it's okay to come tell you if they've run into something they don't think they should've. You should make them use a search engine such as Google.com that lets you set some content restrictions, because they can type something seemingly innocent, and arrive somewhere that's very far from innocent. However no filter is 100%, and nothing beats you looking over their shoulder.
You should remind children that it is NOT okay to give out personal information over the Internet. Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, dates of birth, even addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and real names should be avoided whenever possible. Try to teach children that when someone asks them something, there is very often a reason other than mere curiosity. What may seem like trival information can be devestating in the wrong hands. I've had adults come in terrified of 'stalker' types that they met over the Internet. The really scary thing is how much these people 'know' about their personal life. Real names, locations, type of vehicle they drive and the list goes on. Later on we learn that the person provided most of this information to the suspect themselves by actually listing the information in their own 'profile' that was posted for anyone to see.
Most of us would be shocked to learn how many such on-line 'profiles' exist of teenagers and sometimes even younger from our own area. While writing this I ran a search on a popular 'member directory', a search that anyone could run, and found 74 online profiles for girls age 13-18 in Dardanelle, Arkansas. Yep, right here at home folks. 10 even had pictures of the girls. Think there was any information that could be useful to someone with bad intentions on those profiles? I'm guessing yes. Most of these kinds of profiles list the kid's e-mail address and include an easy instant messaging capability. A child molester could actually pick a location, then 'window shop' for young girls (or boys), and contact any number of them directly in a very short time.
I saw a recent statistic that indicated that roughly 80% of convicted child molesters use the Internet. I wonder why?
I'm sure a lot of people think that this kind of thing over-protective. From what we see on a daily basis from the people passing through the justice system, that's what most people think. Parents are afraid to protect their kids, because they're afraid to tell them no. Kids will test the limits to see what they can do, they always want more freedom and independence, didn't you when you were a kid. It's up to you, the parent, the set where those limits are and then enforce them. It is after all, you that pay for the Internet service and cable bill, right? You know, I've actually had the mother of an 11 year old abuse victim tell me that she didn't feel like she could keep her child from going to a family member's house, the very house where she had been abused, because she would "get mad." So what? You're the parent, and the kid will get it over it. You have to protect them because very often, no one else can.