It is incredible once one begins to investigate the issue of online safety just how many dangers there are that could seriously affect the safety of our children.
I think the dangers of chat rooms and instant messaging on the internet might be two of the top three dangers present, the third being the use of webcams.
It is not that those three online activities are in themselves dangerous but the fact that they are far too often frequented by sexual predators and Cyber Bullies.
The use of these three functions of the internet could provide many hours of good healthy entertainment for your child.
The problem is how to take advantage of this excellent socializing media without falling victim to the dangers present in using them.
I want to go over some of the dangers so that you can determine if you feel your child will be safe in using web chat rooms or instant messengers.
As a preface to this I want to lay out four statistics of importance:
*5 Million Sexual Predators are online at any given time, day or night.
*There is a 50/50 chance the stranger your child is communicating with in a chat room designated for kids is not a child but instead a predator.
*20 percent of our children will be sexually solicited while online
*89 percent of our children sexually solicited will be approached in a chat room or while instant messaging.
Those four statistics from a survey done by a law enforcement website immediately makes me want to grab my kids computer and lock it up.
Unfortunately, we cannot just try and hide from dangers like these.
Your child will also have access to a PC at school, the public library, internet cafes, over their cell phone, or at their friend’s house.
Here are some of the dangers to look out for so that you can make sure your children do not fall prey to the dangers present in chat rooms or instant messengers:
*There is the anonymity of the person they are communicating with. It has to be stressed to your son or daughter that there is no way of knowing the age, sex, or intentions of the stranger they are talking to and to be aware that they cannot trust such relationships.
*Screen names that are used for their profiles and log-ins can cause a security risk. Improperly created they can allow a predator to locate information about your child that can lead to severe security risks.
**Make sure the screen name is unique for every site they log into.
**Be sure the screen name does not use any part of their real name or their email address. Do not use any part of physical address including state, city, street, or zip code.
*Information security is a must. Never give out your email address over the net. Never give out your phone number, cell phone number, name, address, the school you attend, etc… You do not want to provide any information that can allow a stranger to identify or locate you.
*Profile photos are another major risk. Do not under any circumstances use a photo of yourself on the web sites. Do not email or post your photo for anyone to see over the net.
*Chat rooms and instant messengers are a good avenue for predators to attempt to hack into your personal computer. Make sure you have the proper internet security and fire walls set up to prevent this from occurring.
*Avoid services that allow for private messages or private chat rooms. These are the two favorite devices used by predators to isolate their prey and take advantage of them.
*Do not use a webcam in the online chat rooms or instant messengers. They are the favorite tool of the internet sexual predator!
*Make sure they realize they are to inform you immediately of any communication that takes place that is:
**Sexually oriented and invasive
**Harassing or abusive in nature
**Makes them feel uneasy or concerned in any way
*Educate your child on how to “lock out” or “Ignore” conversations that are inappropriate (and make sure the chat room they use has this feature!).
*Make sure that your child is aware of the rules! Have consequences set in case they do not follow the rules of online safety for these services.
If you make sure your kids follow these procedures then it will greatly eliminate the dangers of chat rooms and instant messaging for them on the internet.
Another major danger of internet chat rooms and forums is what is referred to as Cyber Bullying.
One in three children on the internet becomes a victim of a Cyber Bully.
Cyber Bullying can be a traumatic event for your child.
There has been an increase in the number of children committing suicide as a result of Cyber Bullying (Cyber Bullycide).