You’re a parent, and you actively participate in your child’s life, right? But how much do you know about where your child (you can substitute – teenager – if appropriate), goes on the Internet?
For example – do you know?
What social networking sites your child subscribes to?
Who their online friends and acquaintances are?
What your child posts online and where it’s posted?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you are not alone. Recent statistics make it clear that fully 80% of parents don’t know. Ouch! It’s easy to see why this knowledge gap exists; since reports indicate 8 of out of 10 parents give their children unrestricted access to the Internet, without implementing parental control settings.
Contrast this reality with research completed by McAfee Inc., a well known and respected provider of antivirus software and intrusion prevention solutions, that indicated most American mothers rate their teenagers’ online safety, their exposure to drugs and drunk driving, as essentially equal anxiety producing agents.
A more recent McAfee/Harris interactive poll suggests that more than half of teens have talked to a stranger online. Given that it’s becoming more difficult to protect children and teenagers from the dangers on the Internet since there are so many dangers, and these dangers are constantly evolving, this is a chilling statistic.
One of the more harmful myths, which most adults believe is, we have raised, or are raising a “tech savvy” generation. Knowing how to text message, or loading a game onto an Xbox, does not make one “tech savvy”.
The fact is, the majority of children, and teenagers, are undereducated when it comes to recognizing the dangers, and threats, that the Internet poses to their personal privacy and safety. It’s also true, of course that most adults fall into this same category.
Additional McAfee research statistics:
Providing personal information to online strangers – 52 per cent of teens in the study reported having done so.
Providing a photograph, or a physical description, to online strangers – 34 per cent of teenage girls in the study, reported having done so.
Clearing the browser cache so that their Internet history cannot be tracked – 32 per cent of the teenagers in the study reported having done so.
I found the most surprising and troubling statistic to be; 16 per cent of the teenagers involved in the McAfee study, indicated they had developed social networking profiles and Email addresses, which they had hidden from their parents.
According to the FBI in the United States, the following are some of the most important positive actions, you as a parent, can take to reduce your child’s possible victimization on the Internet.
Communicate, and talk to your child about potential on-line dangers.
Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.
Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.
Since computer-sex offenders are a very real danger on the Internet, the FBI suggests that you instruct your children to:
Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line.
Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or an on-line service to people they do not personally know.
Never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
Never download pictures from an unknown source; there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.
Never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
An additional problematic issues, is the issue of sex, tech and teens; more precisely – teenaged sexting. For information on this current issue, please read “Sexting – A Real Problem or an Overreaction?” on this site.
If your operating system does not offer parental control features, and you would like to implement this, then check out my review, on this site, of a free application offered by WRAAC.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free and effective Internet control tools – “Free Internet Child Protection – Parental Control Bar”.
If you are concerned about your child’s cell phone usage (most cell phones today are really Internet connected devices), please read “Parental Monitoring and Cellular Phones” by my tech wizard friend TechPaul.
You can bring yourself and your child up to speed on online safety, by taking the “McAfee/Comcast Cyber Summer Safety Challenge”. You might be surprised at what you can learn.