Friday, June 12, 2009

The Boogie Man in Cyberspace

For the children of this generation, the Internet is simply a part of the daily routine. But the reality is that the Internet has increased the access of sexual predators and pedophiles to their victims. Moreover it's provided the cloak of anonymity that enables these predators to develop trust and lure our children in.

The statistics are pretty astounding:

Approximately one in seven youth online (10 to 17 years-old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet.

Four percent (4%) received an aggressive sexual solicitation - a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; or sent them offline mail, money, or gifts.

Thirty-four percent (34%) had an unwanted exposure to sexual material - pictures of naked people or people having sex.

One of the big problems here is that for most of us with kids- we just don't fully grasp the fact that our children have the ability to use a computer starting at about age 4. By the time they can spell they can go on line and do internet searches. So think about it - a 6 or 7 year old typing words into a Google search.

The key is to shape your children's internet habits,.-the hard part like any other parenting task is that the longer you wait to shape their behavior the more challenging it becomes- teaching a 5 yr old that the computer is only used with permission is much easier than removing a computer from a 10yr olds room who has previously had free access. 

So here are some of the most basic non-technical tips that you need to put in place - to start shaping your child's behavior and you must, absolutely must be consistent.

These are from , a great all around resource for child safety:

1. Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom.

2. Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use;  times they can use the computer, length of time on line, restriction of giving out personal information and posting pictures etc.  Post them near the computer as a reminder.

3. Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger so they can better understand why the rules are in place.

4. Don't use the computer and internet as an electronic-baby sitter.

5. Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.

6. Get to know get to know your child's "online friends" just as you would get to know any of their other friends. Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Someone indicating that "she" is a "12-year-old girl" could in reality be a 40-year-old man.

It's a different world and the rules of parenting now include internet monitoring. We have no other choice if we want our kids to be safe other than to step up to the plate and take on this responsibility.

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