Internet Safety Tips for Kids
How vulnerable are our children?
Nationally, over 45 million children age 10 to 17 use the Internet. For these children following disturbing trends have been note:
- One in four has encountered unwanted pornography
- One in five has been sexually solicited
- One in 17 was threatened or harassed in the past year
- One in 33 received an aggressive sexual solicitation (asked to meet someone in person, called on the telephone, and/or sent correspondence or gifts) in the past year
- Nearly 60% have received an E-mail or Instant Message from a stranger, and half responded to the stranger's message.
The Tallahassee Police Department's Financial Crimes Unit is providing the following helpful guide for parents to educate themselves and their children about Internet safety. Children are exposed to computer use in ever-increasing numbers and society has embraced technology as essential. Many uninformed parents fail to realize the threat to children by unsupervised use of computers accessing the Internet. Children who use the Internet are less likely to fall victim to illegal computer use when they are armed with preventive information from their parents or other sources. Parents should review the following tips and then decide how to best communicate the information to their children.
Rules of the "Cyberspace" Road
Parents and caregivers are ultimately responsible for their children's safety both in the "real" world and in "cyberspace. Most parenting entails setting firm limits so that children can understand what is expected of them, regardless of the situation. This includes the use of computers. The following information is provided as a foundation for parents and children to begin this communication process:
- Tell your children that you have the right to monitor their computer use and that if you suspect there is a problem, you will randomly monitor their Internet activities.
- Do not allow your child to have multiple e-mail accounts or create accounts without your knowledge. You may insist that your children give you their e-mail and chat room passwords.
- Internet accounts and primary screen names should be in your name.
- Tell your children to let you know immediately if a stranger tries to contact them on the Web, whether through an Instant Message, chat room, or even an e-mail.
- Go online with your kids and find out who they send Instant Messages to and/or chat with. Prohibit the use of private chat rooms as well as adult-oriented rooms. Make sure you know the identity of everyone on their contact and/or buddy lists.
- Make sure your child knows to never divulge personal information on the Internet, including his or her name, age, photos, gender, physical description, telephone number, address, etc. Internet predators look at personal profiles stored on the Internet to find their victims.
- Set rules as to what sites your children are allowed to visit and which ones they are not. Enforce these rules, and set time limits on their computer use.
- Do not allow your children to chat (send Instant Messages) during homework-related computer time.
The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), passed by Congress in October 1998, requires the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to issue and enforce rules concerning children's online privacy. The FTC issued the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule in November 1999; it has been in effect since April 21, 2000. The Rule's primary goal is to place parents in control over what information is collected from their children online.
Another good site that provides numerous articles about COPPA that will link to several sites is Are your kids online?
Contracting with your children for Internet safety: the Cyberspace Agreement
Children act more responsibly when they know the rules. That's why you may find the idea of a parent-child contract helpful when it comes to using the Web. Here are some rules of the "virtual" road, along with a sample Cyberspace Agreement for children who accept the rules. You and your children may want to develop others. You might want to print this out and post it next to the computer.
These rules are for my safety. I will honor them when I go online.
- I can go online - ________ (Time of day) for _________ (How long)
- It's ___ OK ___ not OK for me to go online without a parent.
- I understand which sites I can visit and which ones are off limits.
- I won't give out information about myself or my family without permission from my parents.
- My password is my secret. I won't give it to anyone.
- I will never agree to meet an online pal, or send my picture, without permission from my parents.
- I know an advertisement when I see one. I also know that animated or cartoon characters aren't real and may be trying to sell me something or to get information from me.
- I will follow these same rules when I am at home, in school, or at the library or a friend's.
Tips for children
- Never give out personal information on the Internet. Don't share your real name, where you live, where you go to school or anything about your family.
- It is best not to talk to strangers, just like when you're at the park or in a store. Someone may pretend to be someone he or she is not.
- Don't agree to meet anyone you've talked to on line. Tell your parents if an on-line friend wants to get together so your parents know all about it.
- If you fill out a personal profile that other kids can read on line, don't write anything that says too much about you. You may think only your friends can see it, but strangers can find out about you, too.
- Log off immediately if you see or read something that upsets you. Tell your parents or a teacher if something like that happens.
- Protect your password. No one should ever ask you for it for any reason.
- Don't buy anything over the Internet without your parent's approval. Don't give out a credit card number without your parent's knowledge.
- Never send pictures over the Internet unless your parents know about it.
- Ask your parent's permission to visit a chat room.
- Remember that people online may not be who they say they are. Someone who says that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could really be an older man.
How parents can use their computers to assist with their children's safety
Parents should take time to learn more about the operating system on their home computers. Each computer user in the household should have their own login account, but you should make yourself the administrator of the operating system. By becoming the system administrator parents can then set and control key computer functions such as turning off file sharing, barring additional Internet accounts, and keeping a log of certain actions.
What to do about unwanted pornography or child sexual exploitation material
If you or your child comes across material that you find pornographic, threatening, or otherwise offensive, it might well be a violation of law. Save the material, and contact your local law enforcement agency. The Tallahassee Police Department has forensic computer investigation facilities and experienced law enforcement personnel specifically trained to investigate computer crimes and in particular, computer crime focused on child abuse and exploitation.
The National Center for Missing or Exploited Children functions as a national clearinghouse for tips and leads regarding the sexual exploitation of children. You can call the 24-hour Child Pornography Tip line at 1-800-843-5678, or make your reports on-line at their website, CyberTipline. They will compile and forward the information to the appropriate state, federal, or local law enforcement agency for action.
Additional resources for parents
Sites teaching children online safety:
Parent guides to safe Internet sites for children:
Parent guides to the Internet (learning how to use it and control its content):
Safe Internet search engines for kids: