27 April 2010

HOW TO: Parents Combating Internet Predators

Most of us have seen the show 'To Catch a Predator' with Chris Hansen. I'm a big fan, but what this post is going to talk about is how parents can help their kids fight Internet predators.

First lets start with the thought process behind approaching kids about this sort of topic. Lets say all your attempts to guide the child away from certain situations has failed, keep in mind that it will never be the kid's fault. So, no restrictions here, just guidelines to follow and take with them after they leave the nest.

You want to talk to your kids about sexual predators and the potential online dangers that are out there. Curiosity will work against you in most cases if this is something you try to avoid.

Online privileges aren't a bad thing but know that children and chat rooms should never go together. There is too much at risk. If this is something you still want to do, then when the maturity level is right and the trust factor is there, let them know its okay to use the well-monitored chat rooms for kids. Even teens should be encouraged to use monitored chat rooms.

When kids are young, limit them to only the family email address instead of having their own accounts. As they get older, you can ask your ISP to set up a separate email address, but the kid's mail should still reside in your account.

Keep the computer with Internet access in a common area of the house, never in a private area in the house or the child's bedroom. It's a lot harder for predators to establish a relationship with your child when the computer screen is easily visible to parents and the rest of the household.

Instruct your children to never leave the public area of a chat room. Many chat rooms offer private areas where users can have one-on-one conversations.

If your children participate in chat rooms, make it your business to know what chat rooms they visit and who they talk to. Monitor the chat areas yourself to see what kind of conversations are going on.

Teach your kids to never repsond to instant messaging, emails, tweets, blog posts or Facebook entries from strangers without you knowing about.

When it comes to places outside your area of supervision, like the public library, school, or friend's house, find out what computer safeguards they use.

Remember, kids aren't the blame in any case. The offender always bears complete responsibility for their actions.

Keep in mind that this is only 'how you can minimize the risk of a child being a victim', but theres more to come. Next I'm going to talk about 'how kids themselves can stay alert and steer clear from predators'.

In the meantime, enjoy a clip from Chris Hansen's 'To Catch a Predator'.