Discipline

The Internet Dangers Parents Must Know About

| by Child Development Institute

Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who wants to use the internet, if they don’t already?  If so, you may have some concerns.  Yes, it is typically safe for your child to use the internet to do research for school projects, but did you also know that children and teens are now using it to communicate with their friends or other internet users?  This is how and when using the internet at a young age can become a problem.

As important as it is to hear that your child can find themselves in trouble online, if you do not know what internet safety steps can help to protect them, you may be looking for more information.  You also may be curious as to what it is about the internet that can be so dangerous.  For your convenience, five reasons why internet use can be dangerous for children and teenagers are highlighted below.

1 – False Identities Are Easy to Create  Making new friends online is easy and convenient, but it is much different than doing so in person.  Why?  Because you can’t see who is at the other end of the computer.  The internet makes it easy for someone to be anyone else in the world.  For example, if your child is using social networking websites online, they have to enter in their age.  They could easily lie themselves or they could be talking to someone else who is. 

2 – Internet Predators  As it was previously stated, the internet makes it easy to create a new, false identity.  Often times, the individuals who lie about their ages are internet predators.  They are the ones who target children, like yours.  Unfortunately, many children, teenagers, and their parents cannot tell an internet predator until it is too late, like when the predators try to approach your child or contact them in person. 

3 – So Many Websites To Choose From  What is nice about the internet is that you have so many websites to choose from.  In fact, that is why it is a good way to research school projects.  With that said, having so many websites to choose from can be dangerous.  Your child can gain access to social networking websites, adult chat rooms, pornographic websites, and websites that are violent in nature.  Unless you have parental controls set up, your child can easily access any type of website with a standard internet search.

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4 – Not All Information Is Private  Unfortunately, many individuals, including both children and parents, do not know that the information that is posted online isn’t always private.  For starters, most teens have their MySpace profiles set to public, as opposed to private.  This means that anyone can view it.  There are also online message boards that are indexed by the search engines.  This means that others can view the conversations that were discussed, even years down the road. 

5 – They Are In Control  When your child uses the internet, they are the ones who are in control.  This can be okay if your child is older and mature, but you honestly never know.  You may ask your child not to communicate with strangers online, give out their phone numbers, or share pictures with strangers, but that doesn’t mean that they will follow your rules.  For that reason, if you do let your child use the internet, be sure to monitor their use. 

Children and Online Chat Rooms: The Dangers That Lurk

Are you the parent of a child or a teenager who wants to use internet chat rooms?  Or, is your child already using them?  If so, it is important that both you and your child know the dangers that often lurk around online chat rooms. 

For starters, it is important to know that the computer and internet make it easy for someone to be anyone they want to.  In fact, an internet user can claim to be someone famous, a superhero, or another teenager.  There is nothing out there that can stop them.  If your child is using a chat room for teenagers or younger children, they need to know the dangers of exchanging personal information with strangers or “online friends.”  Because, anyone can be at the other end of the computer.

Another common danger of using online chat rooms is the screen names.  Screen names are what is used to identity your child and differentiate them from other chat room users.  If you allow your child to use an online chat room, there is one internet safety step that must be taken.  Have your child create a separate screen name that will not be used elsewhere.  If they use part of their email address, a screen name that appears on other websites or online message boards, or part of their full name, a standard internet search could lead internet predators to your child’s real identity. 

It is also important to know that anyone can get into a chat room.  Unfortunately, this is an important internet safety fact that many parents do not realize.  Just because your teenager is in an online chat room that is designed for kids between the ages of 14 to 17, it doesn’t mean that everyone is the same age in the room.  No age verification is required to get into most online chat rooms.  As it was previously stated, the internet makes it easy for anyone to create a false identity.  This false identity can be used to lure in your child and other young internet users. 

One of the reasons why children and teenagers like to use internet chat rooms is because it automatically connects them with a number of other internet users.  In fact, an online chat room could have as many as one hundred or more internet users talking in it.  Unfortunately, many parents do not realize that some chat rooms have private messaging programs available.  This means that a person, who may actually be a 50 or 60 years old man or woman, could send a private message and communicate directly with your child.  This is actually how many teenagers and children get into trouble with online predators. 

As you can see, there are a number of dangers that lurk around internet chat rooms.  Does this mean that your child shouldn’t use them?  In all honesty, the decision is yours to make, as you are the parent.  With that said, a number of factors should be taken into consideration, such as your child’s age and maturity level.  Do you trust your child to follow the rules that you set in place concerning internet use and the use of online chat rooms? 

Speaking of rules, be sure to have them if you let or know that your son or daughter is using internet chat rooms.  Do not let them visit chat rooms that are designed for adults only.  This makes them an easy target.  Also, be sure they know that just because someone claims to be a 15 year old boy or girl, it doesn’t mean that they are.  They should also never send out pictures or videos of themselves, even when asked, and no other personal information should be exchanged. 

If internet chat rooms concern you, which they should, you may want to point your child in the direction of online message boards instead.  Online message boards, also commonly referred to as online forums, are different as the information appears as separate posts, as opposed to live chats.  While there are no guarantees, you will find that a trusted adult monitors most online message boards, especially those that are designed for children and teenagers.  This means that offensive posts should be removed in a timely matter. 

4 Signs That Your Teenager May Be In Trouble Online

Are you a parent who has a teenager who uses the internet?  If you are, do you know that your teenager may run into trouble online?  Their chances increase when they are using the internet to socialize with friends or make new friends.  Your child may unintentionally fall victim to a child predator online or they may be harassed by those that they know online.  But, would you know if your child is in trouble? 

For your convenience, there are four signs that your teenager may be in trouble online.  If any of these signs apply to your child, you will want to take action right away. 

1 – They Get on the Computer at the Same Time Everyday  What many parents do not realize is that children and teenagers can easily become targets of online child predators.  Many also do not realize that this process doesn’t always happen overnight.  Some child predators pretend to be the ages of their targets.  They then work to gain the trust of those targets.  This can take a few days or a few weeks.  You may be able to tell if this is happening though if your child gets on the internet at the same time, every single day.  This is a good sign that they are communicating directly with someone, who may not have pure intentions. 

2 – They Are Secretive When They Use the Computer  How does your child act when they are using the computer?  Does your child try to hide what they are doing online from you?  If they automatically shut off the computer or put a game on the screen, they may be trying to prevent you from seeing what they are doing online.  This is a good sign that your child may be doing something they shouldn’t be doing online, like having direct, personal conversations with a stranger, who may be a child predator. 

3 – They Are Very Happy When Getting Off the Computer  If your child is overly happy when they sign off the internet, they may be on the path to trouble.  This sign can be a little bit tricky though.  Your child may be happy because they just finished a long school project, but you honestly never know.  If your teenager is communicating with someone online, they may be in the process of starting a relationship, which they are happy about.  Unfortunately, many teenagers do not realize that anyone can hide behind a computer.  That is why it is important that you talk to your child about the dangers of starting an online romance.

4 – They Are Very Depressed  As previously stated, your child may be very happy when using the internet, but another warning sign is that they are depressed, especially when they sign off the computer.  What many parents do not realize is that other teenagers use the internet for harassment.  If your teenager has a falling out with one of their friends, they may find themselves being harassed online.  If that is the case, your child may seem very down, depressed, and withdrawn. 

The four above mentioned signs are just a few of the many that you will want to look for to see if your child is in trouble online.  With that said, there are additional signs that you will want to be on the lookout for, the biggest being a change in behavior.  If you do suspect that your child has or is about to run into trouble online, be sure to talk to them and as soon as possible. 

What to Do If Your Child Runs Into Trouble Online

Are you the parent of a child or teenager who uses the interenet?  As much as we would all like to believe that are children are safe when using the internet, there are certain situations that may, unfortunately, arise.  It is important to remember that most children use the internet to communicate with their friends or to make new friends, not just to do research for school projects.  If your child finds himself in trouble online and comes to you, do you know what you can or should do?   

As it was previously stated, numerous situations can develop online that have the potential to be dangerous.  One of those situations is when personal information is exchanged with a stranger.  Has your child recently given away your phone number, address, or their email address to someone who they don’t really know?  

If so, be sure to change as much information as possible.  This may involve changing your home phone number or your child’s cell phone number or email address.  Be sure to take additional safety steps, such as always being aware of your surroundings, locking your home and car, and you may also want to contact your local authorities.  Be sure to talk to your child about the dangers of exchanging personal information online.  

In keeping with exchanging personal information online, your child may end up talking to an adult, thinking that they are another teenager or close to their age.  If that is the case, your child is likely dealing with an internet predator, who can be old enough to be a parent or a grandparent.  

If your child has made contact, intentionally or unintentionally, with an older person online, has any personal information been exchanged?  If so, change that information, like your child’s email address, cell phone, or even if your home phone number.  Make sure that the contact stops immediately.  Contact the authorities, school officials, and make sure that all family members know.  Get as much information you can about the real person behind the computer.  The police may be able to help you do so. 

Many high school and junior high school students use social networking websites, like MySpace.  Unfortunately, many also mistakenly believe that it is a good idea to try to look “cool,” online and at any cost.  Your child may post pictures or videos of themselves online doing illegal activities, like smoking or drinking underage, stealing, or doing drugs.  

If this is something that your child has done, be sure to remove the pictures or videos right away.  If school officials or authorities have viewed your child’s pictures or videos, he may be facing punishment.  A lawyer should be called if your child is arrested.  If your child is suspended from school or extra curricular activities, speak to school officials.  What you, the parent, and your child can do?

Online harassment is another common problem that children, namely junior high school and high school students face.  A complete stranger, an online friend, or a friend right at school can do this harassment.  When friends have a falling out or even just a simple disagreement, many turn to the internet to seek revenge, as it is easy to hide behind a computer. 

If your child finds himself or herself a victim of online harassment, the authorities should be contacted.  This is particularly important if your child does not actually know, in person, the individual who is making threats or spreading harmful rumors.  If the individual doing so is a former friend or another individual at school, there are a number of steps that you can take.  If you know the child and their parents, consider arranging a meeting, but be cautious and use your best judgment.  Alternatives involve contacting the authorities or the school. 

As you can see, there are a number of troubling and potentially dangerous situations that your child can find himself in online.  Just make sure that you, as the parent, take steps to help and protect your child.