Social networking sites like myspace.com or flickr.com are the hippest “meet sites” around, especially with tweens, teens and 20-somethings. Why? Because they let kids instantly connect with the world through blogs, chat rooms, email or instant messaging. But while they can increase your children’s circle of friends, they also can increase exposure to people who have less-than-friendly intentions, like online predators.
How online predators work
Predators contact kids through chat rooms, instant messaging, email or discussion boards. Sometimes they pretend to be the age of the child they are talking to. They’re “with it” knowing the latest music, coolest TV shows and hottest movies that kids like.
Online predators try to gradually seduce their targets through attention, affection, kindness and even gifts. They listen to and sympathize with kids’ problems in order to gain trust.
After gaining their trust, online predators will start talking about sex or show sexually explicit material. However, some predators work faster than others, engaging in sexually explicit conversations immediately. Predators may also try to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the kids they meet online.
Tips to help your kids surf safely
Keep the computer in a common area
- The kitchen, dining room or family room are all great places to keep the computer.
- Use the Internet with your kids.
Talk about it honestly
- Talk to your kids about their online habits and warn them about the dangers of flirting with strangers online.
- Tell your kids to trust their gut if they have suspicions, and to talk to you about it.
Be cautious about giving out information
- Make sure your kids’ screen names don’t reveal too much about who they are or where they live.
- Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your kids’ websites.
- Your kids should only post information that you – and they – are comfortable with others knowing. Remember once they post information online, they can’t take it back.
- Check site privacy policies.
If your child feels threatened, here’s what you can do
- Encourage your kids to tell you if they feel threatened.
- Let them know that they can stop communicating with the person who is making them uncomfortable.
- If the situation escalates, report it to the police and the social networking site.
Did you know?
Every time you visit a website a history of your visit may be saved on your computer. To see a list of recently visited sites in a Windows™ operated system, just:
- Click the “History” button on the toolbar. Or press CTRL + H.
- When the list of urls appear, double-click any of the links to visit that site.
Computer-savvy kids know how to cover their Internet tracks. But open and honest communication with your kids will go a long way in keeping them safe.