Looking for Regional Information?

Parent's Guide for Online Safety

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/2/2006 | Internet

 With the dramatic rise in the incidence rate of online crime, the safety of your child has become a serious issue that you need to address as soon as possible.

Possession of home computers and access to the internet has become a near universal phenomenon in the middle through upper classes of Western society. A child left unsupervised in front of a computer is left at the mercy of destructive forces that are on the lookout for exactly this kind of opportunity. You need to be constantly on the lookout for signs that will tell you of approaching danger, and take appropriate steps as soon as you suspect anything.

What are the signs that you need to watch out for?

First, is your child spending too much time on the computer, presumably connected to the internet? While no conclusive proof, addiction to computers and the internet can in themselves be harmful for your child's mental health and academic performance. Moreover, it may be a sign that he or she is falling under the spell of people who can potentially abuse their innocence. Children who have been sexually abused by cyber-acquaintances are usually found later to have spent long hours glued to the screen, specially at night and on the weekends.

What prompts this kind of behavior in the child? Most of the time it is the so-called 'latchkey kids' who develop this pattern of activity. Left unattended and asked to stay home, they have little to do except enter chat rooms and get into potentially dangerous situations. One good way of preventing this from ever happening in the first place is to spend more time with the child. Adjust and make modifications in your social or professional life if necessary, and give attention and company to the child. It is alienation and loneliness that drives them to adopting cyber-friends in the first place, and you have the power to set that right.

Secondly, do regular file reviews on your child's computer. Offenders often send pornographic material to children in order to initiate sexual discussions. If you find anything of the sort there, you need to take her off the net immediately, and try to trace the origin of the material. If you have proof that it wasn't collected by the child but sent to her by someone, get in touch with the police.

If the child is aware that what he or she is doing is not going to get your approval, she is going to become more and more secretive. Try to open frank discussions with her that do not start with accusations or scoldings. If you find she is keeping things from you or changing her computer screen as soon as you enter the room, you need to go on red alert immediately.

Often she may receive phone calls at hours when she's supposed to be alone or unattended at home. She may also receive gifts from unclear or undisclosed sources. At each of these signs, you need to become aware of her activities and acquaintances. Parental disregard and apathy often paves the way to disaster.