New York recently took an important step toward making the Internet a safer place by passing the landmark e-STOP Act, a measure to prevent predators from victimizing children on Internet social networking sites, such as the popular Facebook and MySpace. While e-STOP promises to be an effective tool in making the Internet safer for our families, itís also critical that parents remain vigilant about their childrenís Internet usage.
Practicing Internet safety isnít just about avoiding sex predators Ė it also means making sure families are aware of the potential for cyber-bullying, scam artists and other unwanted Internet attention.
To help ensure the online safety of your family, talk to them about safe Internet practices, including:
- Be as wary of strangers online as they would be of a stranger on the street
- Never give out identifying information such as their name, address, telephone number, school name or photographs without checking with you first
- Never arrange a meeting with an online acquaintance without checking with you first, and if itís okay, make sure they meet in a public place with you present
- Donít respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene or belligerent
As a parent, you should:
- Know what your children are doing and with whom they are communicating online
- Keep the computer in a family living area of your home so children cannot use the computer privately
- Spend time with your child while online
- Request your Internet provider block certain services and websites that maybe inappropriate
Parents should also be aware of signs that may indicate that their childís online safety has been compromised. The following are potential danger signs:
- Your child begins to spend unusual amounts of time online
- The screen consistently goes dark when you enter the room, as though your child were hiding something
- Your child uses a large number of disks to retrieve materials or you find hidden disks
- Your child seems reluctant to discuss the messages he or she had been receiving online
Law enforcement agents across the country are increasingly aware of pedophiles, bullies and scam artists who use the Internet to target innocent and unsuspecting kids. The new e-STOP law will go far to cut down shady practices, but parents should know that they are on the front lines of protecting their kids from Internet dangers. Following simple tips can ensure that using the computer is always a positive experience.