Safe Online Surfing

28/01/2011 08:43


If you believe that adults can suffer from identity theft or be mislead by online criminals, imagine what children can experience in case their online surfing time is not properly guided. In fact, parents should know that when children are online, it is just like they are out in public. Thus, educating kids and monitoring their online surfing time can save parents from the anguish of having to deal with an uncomfortable situation later.

Exposed to a variety of stimuli, children today are able to surf and visit websites, portals, enter chat rooms or participate in online games. Since technology has brought a tremendous shift in children's recreational time, kids should be taught that when they are talking with someone in a chat room or an instant message session, they are actually interacting with strangers unless they know in person the other party from the "real" world, like their school class or sports team.

A number of social studies reveal a shocking number. One in 4 children between the ages of 10 and 17 are exposed to sexually explicit imagery and nearly 20 percent has received an unwanted sexual solicitation during the past year. Although "kids are tough" and are not deeply hurt by these experiences as they consider them as a forbidden "fun" game between peers, a number of parents have reported that their children have been clearly disturbed by these type of online exposures. Surely, apart from the kids, parents are also extremely annoyed by the fact that unwanted exposures to porn and suitors have entered their kids' lives through the virtual reality of a computer screen. But the fact remains that even when children are not looking for these kind of information online, they can readily find such material accidentally and then not to know how are they supposed to react.

The situation for parents seems very difficult and organizations, or administrative units like the Commission on Online Child Protection, have been examining the subject of online children protections in great extend. The problem is that safety issues and moral issues tend to overlap and while parents agree that their children online safety is among the top priorities on their list, they have not yet reached a stage of mutual agreement of their concerns or a reasonable and effective strategy to limit the chances of their kids being exposed to such kind of unwanted imagery or solicitations.

As no single solution currently exists, it is imperative for parents to educate their kids and explain that the internet is just like a city street with interesting parks and happy people but also full of dangerous characters and speedy drivers. Since identity can be hidden or even altered while one is online it is crucial to make sure your children understand not to reveal any information about their identity or whereabouts that would allow someone to track them down. Of course that means that no names, addresses, phone numbers, school or parents' work locations and e-mail addresses. Finally, it is important for kids never to get together alone with someone they meet online. If for whatever reason, your child feels that it is absolutely imperative to get together with someone that they have "met" online, make sure it's in a public place, like a restaurant, at a reasonable hour and that a parent is present. Although this does not give you much assurance that everything will go well, you will at least be able to check the person's age, gender and demeanor.


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