Tips to stay safe online
The proliferation of child predators using the Internet to target young victims has become a national crisis. A study shows one in seven children will be solicited for sex online in the next year.
The Texas Attorney General is urging all parents and teachers to realize the risks our children face online, and take steps to help ensure their children’s safety.
Tips from Cyber-Smart Kids
- As I surf the ‘Net, I promise never to reveal to someone I meet online my real name, address, telephone number, or the school I attend or give out my photograph. I promise to be sure that I am dealing with someone who my parents know and trust before giving out any personal information about myself via email.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the service provider.
- I will be careful when someone offers me something for nothing online, such as gifts and money. I will be very careful about any offers that involve my going to a meeting or having someone visit my house. And I will tell my parents about these offers.
- I will never agree to get together with someone I “meet” online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and I will bring my mother or father along.
- I will always tell my parents if anything I find online bothers me so they can contact our online service provider.
- No one should ever ask me to keep secrets from my parents. If someone I meet online asks me to keep a secret from my parents, I will tell my parents.
- I pledge to remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because I can’t see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent himself or herself. For example, someone indicating that “she” is a “12-year-old-girl” could in reality be an older man.
- I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate Web sites for me to visit. I will not access other Web sites or break these rules without their permission.
- If someone is on my email “buddy list,” “friend list,” or “contact list” and I only know that person online, he or she is someone I should be cautious about because I don’t know him or her well. I pledge to wait to get to know my “online friends” just as I get to know all of my other friends. I need to let my parents know who my “cyber friends” are.
- I can report anything that is threatening or suspicious to the Attorney General’s office by calling 1-(800) 252-8011.
Tips for Parents on Protecting Your Children Online
By educating yourself and your children, you can help make the Internet a safe and valuable tool for your family.
The most important thing you can do is to pay close attention to your children and encourage them to confide in you. They should know that you will be calm and protective if they tell you about something that has frightened or disturbed them.
- Teach your kids not to give out personal information such as their last name, your last name, their home address, or phone number, especially in a chat room, over a bulletin board, or to an online pen pal without your permission.
- Make sure your kids know not to agree to a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online.
- Instruct your kids never to respond to email or chat messages that make them feel uncomfortable or from someone they don’t know. Stress that they should show such messages to you.
- Surf the Internet with your kids. If it is not possible for you to actually surf with your kids, at least talk to them about the Web sites they are visiting.
- Place the computer in a public room in your home so that even when you are not surfing with your kids, you can monitor their use. Do not allow computers in bedrooms or the use of webcams.
- Establish ground rules for your kids’ Internet usage, including the hours they may surf and the kinds of Web sites they may visit. Post the rules near the computer.
- Learn how to use parental controls and archiving features. You should be able to check your child’s email account and review the sites your child has visited on the Internet.
Protect Your Family’s Privacy
- Become familiar with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires Web sites that are directed toward children under 13 to obtain a parent’s permission before collecting many types of information. For more information on COPPA, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Website.
- Be informed before deciding whether to give consent. Check a Web site’s information collection practices before you decide whether or not to give consent. Keep in mind that you can give a Web site consent to collect information, but refuse to allow your child’s information to be passed on to a third-party.
- You can always change your mind and revoke consent. If at any time you change your mind about a Web site’s collecting your child’s information, you may revoke your consent and have your child’s information deleted.
- Be willing to ask a Web site to delete your child’s information. If you think a Web site might already have collected information from your kids, ask to see what information they have collected and request that it be deleted.
Staying Safe When Using Blogs
A blog (short for Web Log) is a website of your own, where you enter information ordered by date. It’s an online diary or online journal that is shared with others online. Talk to your child about blogging. Blogging can be a great creative writing exercise for your child. Just make sure they understand how to stay safe.
- Blogs should not contain identifying information that someone could use to locate the blogger or anyone he or she writes about.
- Remind your child that once a blog is posted, it’s out there. You can take it down, but you can’t take it back.
- Think twice about who may be hurt by something written in a blog. Some bloggers bully, slander, harass and intimidate others. Sometimes they simply have not thought about the effect their private thoughts could have on others when posted for all to read.
- Some children have unintentionally revealed information about their families that could lead to identity theft. Teach your child about identity theft and how to avoid it.
- Help your child select an age-appropriate blog site and make sure personal information is hidden from public view. As always, check privacy policies carefully.
- Read your children’s blogs! Encourage their creative efforts. Children (like everyone else) are sensitive to criticism of their writing and respond readily to praise. You can guide them and protect them by being their number one reader and fan.
If for any reason you fear any one, or have any doubts about your safety, contact Law Enforcement immediately.
Texas Attorney General’s office 1-(800) 252-8011
Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®