Do you have a child who spends time on the computer? Do you know what he/she is doing and whom he/she is talking to? The Internet can put a world of information at your child’s fingertips, but can also leave your child vulnerable to exploitation by strangers. Protect your children from the risks related to online communication and be involved in your child’s Internet activities. The FBI Cyber Division provides these tips for parents:
Signs That Your Child Might Be at Risk Online:
- Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
- You find pornography on your child’s computer.
- Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
- Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
- Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
- Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
- Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.
What to Do if You Suspect Your Child is Communicating with a Sexual Predator Online:
- Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about the dangers of computer sex offenders.
- Review what is on your child’s computer. If you don’t know how, ask a friend, coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person.
- Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else’s Caller ID. Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents computer sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.
- Monitor your child’s access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child’s e-mail.
- Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or online service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
- Your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography.
- Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age.
- Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone who knows your child is under the age of 18.
If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.
How to Minimize the Chances of an Online Exploiter Victimizing Your Child:
- Communicate and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential online danger.
- Spend time with your children online. Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
- Use parental controls provided by your Internet service provider and/or blocking software.
- Always maintain access to your child’s online account and randomly check his/her e-mail.
- Teach your child the responsible use of the resources online.
- Find out what computer safeguards are used by your child’s school, the public library, and at the homes of your child’s friends.
- Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim.
Instruct your children:
- To never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online.
- To never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or online service to people they do not personally know.
- To never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
- To never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.
- To never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing; that whatever they are told online may or may not be true.
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