While the Internet provides an opportunity for kids to play games, chat with friends and research school assignments, it can also be a dangerous place for them.

In a recent survey of young Internet users ranging in age from 10 to 17. about 20 percent said they had received unwanted sexual solicitations while online.

Because the Internet allows people to remain anonymous, predators have found it easier to misrepresent themselves, often portraying themselves as children and becoming friends with vulnerable kids. Some predators may post messages in chat rooms-Web sites that allow real-time conversations with other people online-or on online bulletin boards.

Some children have revealed large amounts of personal information, sent photos of themselves to predators or have even been convinced to meet their online “friend” face to face.

Major Internet service providers have modified the latest versions of their software to allow parents to find out which Web sites their kids are visiting. These software features can include weekly activity reports, controls to limit communication with strangers and custom filters for each child.

Several major service providers joined together to create a guide parents can use to help keep their kids safe when using the Internet. The guide can be found at www.getnetwise.org.

Here are a few Internet tips:

□             Use the Internet with your kids. Keep your home computer in a room where you can monitor what your kids are doing.

□             Teach kids never to give personal information to people they meet online, especially in chat rooms and on bulletin boards.

□             Teach your child never to meet in person with someone he or she meets online.

□             Establish clear rules for Internet use with your family.

□             Tell children not to respond if they receive offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat requests or other communications and to leave if they go to a Web site that makes them uncomfortable.

□             If you become worried that your child or another child is in danger, don’t hesitate to contact the local authorities.

For more information on children’s online privacy, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at www.ftc.gov or a special Web site co-sponsored by the FTC, www.kidsprivacy.com.

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