"Parents teach their kids how to cross the street safely and demand crossing guards, but will allow them to play on the Information Superhighway without any safeguards”

Studies performed by the National Institute for Missing and Exploited Children concluded that in the past year one in five minors were subjected to sexual solicitation online, with 5% receiving aggressive solicitation in the form of being asked to meet, phone calls, mail, money, or gifts. 70% of solicitations occurred at home, yet less then one-quarter of minors told a parent. The average age at which minors are first exposed to Internet pornography is only 11.

The dangers children face online can be categorized into either passive or active risks:

A passive risk takes the form of undesirable material, such as pornography, that is available for children that go looking for it. These risks don’t pose an imminent physical danger, but are inappropriate for their content alone. More benign risks, such as computer games and excessive Internet browsing, can also fall into this category since they can cause major distractions, especially to school work.

Active risks are those that seek out victims, with Internet predators being the most recognizable example. Active risks are the most dangerous since the consequences of being victimized can be dire. In 2002 Christina Long, a thirteen-year-old suburban Connecticut girl, found out how dire when she became the first victim with the distinction of being murdered by an Internet predator in the U.S.

Fortunately there is a wealth of information available on the Internet to educate both parents and children. A list of the most useful resources is available in the Parent Resources section at http://www.pc-chaperone.com. Below is a condensed list of the most common tips:

· Place computers in an open area

· Set and enforce rules that limit what web sites children are allowed to visit

· Teach children to tell you if a stranger tries to contact them, regardless of how innocent it appears

· Set time limits on computer use, including time of day and total usage time

· Avoid suggestive user names, such as “teenbeauty” or ”littleangel”, in chat rooms and services like MySpace.com since these names are sought out by Internet predators

· Teach children that divulging ANY personal information on the Internet is dangerous, and that predators often masquerade as children to gain trust. Even something as simple as the color of your child’s softball team uniform can be enough for a predator to find them

· Disable or supervise peer-to-peer file sharing program use. These programs can be used to download pornography and are not blocked using standard Internet filters

· Do not allow children to use web cams without supervision. Predators have been known to trick children into showing them “mild” nudity on web cams and then using the threat of publishing those images on the Internet to coerce children into more and more graphic acts. This can eventually lead to children agreeing to meet the predator

· Utilize control and monitoring software. Tools like those available at http://www.pc-chaperone.com can be used to filter Internet content, prevent excessive use of programs or web browsers, monitor user activity to help identify and address dangerous behavior, and more

Educate yourself, educate your children, and invest in the necessary tools to make sure they’re safe. Don’t let your family be the next saying that they never thought it could happen to them.

Author's Bio: 

As an IT professional Jeff Miller has devoted the past decade to issues surrounding Internet security and safety.