Child Security in the Internet

By: Walter Stone

The Seven Signs of Unsuitable Use or Contact From the Internet

Home security is about protecting your family, and the most overlooked means of entry is sitting in your living room...your computer. The Internet has become a vast and great resource for our children to learn things they would never have had the opportunity to learn otherwise. We all remember having to go to the library to research our next term paper using the World Book encyclopedia or the Periodicals catalog. The Internet Age has allowed our children to receive, almost instantaneously, information it would otherwise have taken days to receive. This "instantaneous" aspect of the Internet yields split second access to materials unsuitable for children to see or hear.

So with that said, here are seven warning signs that may show your child is using the Internet in unsuitable ways:
1 - Your child spends most of their home time on the Internet.
2 - Your child quickly turns off the monitor or shuts the computer down when you enter the computer room.
3 - You receive phone calls from strangers asking to speak to your child.
4 - You recognize outgoing phone calls, mostly long distance, from your residence to phone numbers you do not recognize.
5 - Your child begins receiving gifts from people and addresses that you do not recognize.
6 - Your child's personality begins to change, becoming more combative when asked to reduce his/her computer usuage.
7 - You pull up pornographic or other unsuitable materials from your computer's hard drive.

The major Internet access sites, including America Online, MSN, Earthlink, and others, have made it increasingly difficult for children to receive unsuitable material through their Internet connections. These services have also allowed the parent to restrict even more the online experience of their children. It is important that a parent reviews these increased security options and determine if they are applicable to the online situation.

However, most of these sites still allow access of minors to sites that are conducive to chatting and instant messages. It is these areas, as well as electronic mail, that provide the greatest risk to our children. Unlike the typical phone call, the Internet has no "face" or "voice" from which to somehow identify the person our child is communicating to. The person happily chatting with our child via the Weather Channel chat room about cumulonimbus clouds and the report the child is writing could just as easily be a 50 year old pedophile waiting for his chance to trap the child into divulging personal information about themselves and their location.

It is extremely important that we advocate to our school communities the hazards which exist for our children on the Internet. There are resources available to you that will expand on the signs of abuse and the steps to take in protecting your child from experiencing this unsuitable content on the Internet.

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