It is difficult to shield our children from all of the world's dangers. It seems that with every turn of the page there is some evil in the shadows ready to take any opportunity to destroy a Child's happy and secure world. The newest threat to our children’s lives is the vile presence of online predators. We must protect and prepare our children to against the evils of the world around them and the evils of the internet world. With internet availability in almost every home children are today, at school, and the homes of friends, we must consider that child predators are at our doors in the home, at school and at the doors of the homes of friends. There are precautions we can take against this loathsome evil.

It is vital to remember that small children do not belong in a chat room. This is a time in their lives to be learning the lessons on “stranger danger”. On internet chat room is a room filled with strangers. As patents we must carefully teach them about stranger danger, not the strangers. Even chat rooms that claim to be monitored are not monitored by you’re the parent, but another stranger.

As a child grows older they may wish to step out a little, and perhaps meet up with a few known friends in a chat room environment. As much as we would like to we cannot keep our children in a safe bubble forever. When your child is ready to reach outside of their protective bubble it should only be allowed under strict and diligent attention from a nearby parent. The parent should be reading every message that comes and goes for as long as it takes for the child to completely understand the presence of internet predators. Do not believe for a moment that you told them a few things they can and cannot do or say your child will be aware, never stop paying attention.
When you feel your young one is ready to be allowed a little chat privacy, don’t simply cut the strings. A parent should regularly ask their child who they are talking with and what they are talking about. Particularly private chat boxes should be strictly prohibited.

Chatting in an open chat room environment at least offers a little security that some other responsible chatter is noticing any possible “unusual” conversation. Private chat boxes do not have this advantage. Personal messaging systems i.e. instant messengers are also very much a security risk for this same reason.

No-one really knows who is on the other end of an internet chat. Someone saying they are a 13 year old boy could just as easily be a 30 year old pedophile. Profiles, profile pictures or even photo exchanges do not guarantee the person typing on their keyboard matches the profile. I have had some parents believe that perhaps webcam chats are a safer alternative, this is absolutely wrong! Pictures received via webcam may be pre made streamed video, or even a predator that happens to look young enough by camera. Online chatting must be supervised at all times.

The best way to provide adequate supervision while your child is on the internet is to only allow internet access from a computer stationed in the family living rooms of your home. As much as we would like to believe that our children will do and behave in a way we have taught them, we should remember that childhood is a time for experimenting and finding boundaries, it is normal that a child might “forget’ that they are not allowed to chat from their computer in their room. Monitoring software is available and recommended but does not substitute from parental supervision.

While your growing children will want their own email address, they should not be left unmonitored. You should have the same access to their email accounts they do. Until your child is at an age that they are making their own choices in life, the choices they make are still yours to know. Email accounts are not private diaries; they are a source of communication.
Thought should also be given in the creation of email accounts. Although the joining forms request full names and locations, you should never ever use your real name of exact location. Even common short versions of names is beyond safe practice, e.g. “Willi Patto” obviously the real name has only a few enough variations to be telling an online predator who you are and how to find you. The terms and conditions might specify that this information is kept private, but the internet world is rife with fraud and theft.

When it comes to filling in profile information and adding friends to visible lists such as MySpace or yahoo 360, you may have been diligent with your Childs profile, but the chances are they will have at least one friend on their list who in turn has a profile that points direct to your child revealing information that leaves them both vulnerable to online predators. It’s just not worth overlooking anything.

It is vital that you speak with your child open and honestly. Tell them in no uncertain terms what can and does happen to children from online predators. If they are old enough to be internet savvy users, they are old enough and must to hear it straight. It’s not nice, but far nicer than having a child endangered. The block functions available are your friend, use it, block contact from people you are uncomfortable with, and block sites you do not trust.

Never even consent to or allow a meeting with someone your child has met on the internet. Though it is true that not everyone your child will come across on the internet is a predator, many are just kids like your own. These kids will also benefit from your diligence, monitoring the communication does not hurt them at all.

The internet is not a toy, and it’s certainly not safe for children not supervised. Internet predators present real harm. Serious sickening assaults and even death does result in careless internet communication. Police and child protection organizations are doing the best that they can, but you are your Childs best defense against online predators.

Author's Bio: 

Leon Edward provides a FREE online guide that answers parents most frequently asked questions about online predators at
http://www.childprivacyonline.com

Leon Edward also provides a FREE Identity Theft Prevention Checklist and free information online at http://www.USIdentityTheft.org

Leon Edward also blogs almost daily on family issues, family entertainment, fun, education and many hobbies. Comment on his articles are welcome at his new website
http://www.focusonthefamilyblog.info