There are hundreds of pages written on Internet safety. We want to get right to the main points. If you are a parent please take the time to read the following pages. Included will be links to web pages devoted to safety on the Internet.
2) SENDING PICS
3) INSTANT MESSENGER
5) PLAYING ONLINE GAMES
6) DOWNLOADING MUSIC
CHILD SAFETY WHILE SURFING THE WEB:
There will come a time when your child is exposed to the World Wide Web, if not already. This may be at home, a friends house, or at school. Is it something to be concerned about? Yes. Is it something parents need to monitor? Yes. Letting your child on the Internet unsupervised is like letting your child walk around Central Park alone at night. So, should you go and pull the plug on the computer? Not so fast.
What is on the Web? Everything you could possibly imagine. You probably already know this. But do you know what your children are doing on the Internet? This isn't too hard to figure out. What did you do when you were young? Talk on the phone? Play games? Make new friends? I hear a lot of parents saying, My son/daughter comes home and goes right on the computer. This is great because you know where they are and they cannot get hurt using the computer right? WRONG!
Lets take the typical situation. Your child gets home from school and goes online. Do you know where they are going? Are they in a chat room? Are they instant messaging each other? Are they playing a game with other people? And does that game have a chat area? Are they looking up adult material? (No you do not need a credit card to get into millions of these adult sites). Where is this computer located? Do you ever look where your child has been? By doing that it could be construed as you not trusting them. And you shouldn't! Do you trust them to go camping with friends without adult supervision? Do you trust them to go to a party where there isn't going to be adults? Do you trust them in Central Park alone at night? Remember Mom and Dad you are not your son or daughters friend you are their caregiver. It is up to you to keep them safe. By leaving your child unsupervised while they are online is not keeping them safe.
Children like to learn. Left alone and unguided they will learn all they can about the Internet. That is, the good and the bad. You may say Not my child. No sir. My child would NEVER do anything wrong on the Internet. Then only to satisfy my curiosity, Lets just go ahead and read the following: (you might be surprised)
Ø Where is the computer? It needs to be in a room that all of the family uses. Such as: the living room, kitchen, den, or the hallway in between. To let your child use the computer alone in a room is where they can go anywhere they want. Does it violate their privacy? Yes! And it should! Children have no privacy while online. It is your house and your computer. That gives you the right to look at it anytime you want. That should be your rule. That way they will stay out of trouble.
Ø What are they doing online? There arent that many things to do. They can be: playing games, chatting, instant messaging, downloading music, making a website or looking at websites. Lets look at the dangers of some of these.
§ CHATTING- We investigated a 15 year old girl who met a 34 year old man from Keansburg NJ. They met chatting. A "friendship" developed and eventually he came to Hopatcong. They had a sexual relationship right at her house. How? Mom did not monitor what her daughter was doing on the internet.
Chatting is the most DANGEROUS activity that your child can be doing on the internet A chat room is like a big auditorium. Inside people are talking about anything they want. All under screen names. The sign on the door going in says teen sports. So you figure this room has all teens in it talking about sports right? Not so. Anyone can be in there. Look at the screen name ASHLEY12TOCHEER4. Take that name apart. What is my name? Ashley. What is my age? 12. What do I like to do? Cheer. Nope. I am actually Officer Kmetz. The screen name means nothing. Anyone can have as many names as they like. They can be whoever they want to be. Maybe even your childs best friend. Lets look at a predator. They are someone who knows what kids like. Has your child ever said I hate you when they got mad? Well their friend on chat will never make them mad. Their friend on chat will tell them what they want to hear. Their friend on chat who they think is a 12-year old boy may be a 45-year old predator who is also a psychologist. Who would win in that mind game?
Many times I have been in chat rooms under the name Ashley12tocheer4. Every time sooner or later someone asks for ASL. That means Age, Sex and Location. When I answer, it usually quickly turns sexual with them asking do I like older men. Sometimes they want to send a picture called a pic. Recently they ask if I have a cam. This is a small camera that they can watch me live. A lot of people in chat rooms now have cams. If I dont have one, no problem. I can still see what that person wants to show me on his body. And it isnt of their face if you know what I mean. This departmnet took a report of a 15 year old Hopatcong female that posed nude in front of her webcam. These pictures were posted on a website for the entire world to see. How could this have been avoided? NO CAMS! Especially when the computer is in your child's room and they are on it unsupervised.
So you bring this up to your child and he/she says. Oh, I know that. I dont answer them when they ask for A/S/L. I dont open the cam box when it comes up. So does Mr. Predator give up? Nope. He then switches identities or just tries to strike up other conversations. There are predators that keep notes on screen names. They cyberstalk. They get pieces of information and then put them all together to find the person. For instance:
· We are in a chat room on teen sports. Ashley12tocheer4 gets into a conversation with Ihatemeanguys13. (He is using the soft, kind, loving guy approach with this screen name).
· I look up his profile but he doesnt have one, or it is bogus anyway.
· We talk about sports and I tell him I love to cheer and I am captain of the warriors Cheerleaders.
· He asks me if we are any good. I proudly tell him we won the ECA nationals this year. (Which they did! You go girls).
· A few moments later he comes back and tells me Hopatcong is a nice town. WOW! How did he know that?
Easy. Lets take a look:
ü He wrote down Warriors cheerleading from our conversation
ü He wrote down ECA Nationals cheerleading I told him we won that.
ü He types in ECA NATIONALS in a search engine like yahoo.
ü He finds ECA finals/nationals cheerleading championships and clicks on it.
ü He looks for 2004 winners and clicks on it.
ü He goes down the list looking for warriors. There he finds Hopatcong Warriors. The only warriors on the whole board.
ü He bounces this off of me by saying Hopatcong is a nice place to see my reaction. A teen may say: How did you know I live in Hopatcong? Or Yeah it is, Do you live here too?
ü Now he goes to the search engine and looks up Hopatcong Warriors.
ü He finds the website: The #1team: The Warriors as a web page.
ü There he finds a list of every cheerleaders name. (At least their first names.) By now you can see where he will go with this. So you have 19 on your team?
Your child is no match for a determined, dedicated preferential sex offender. These men mail plane tickets to children in other states so they can meet up with them. These men will drive for days across states to meet a child. They have money, they have time and they have learned what children want the hear. So as I said in the first paragraph, DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN IN CHAT ROOMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
§ SENDING PICS- We are in the age of digital cameras, cell phones that take digital pictures, and web cams. Web cams are just like a video camera hooked up to a computer. So what is wrong with your child sending a picture or video of herself/himself over the net? Well, you dont know where that picture or video will end up. Your child sends it to a friend who then sends it to another friend who sends it to a website and now your childs picture or video is on the Internet for everyone to see. (There are free teen adult sites that have thousands of pictures and web cams of teens just like your son/daughter). Not only that, but if your child is chatting with a predator, they will surely want a pic. Of course Mr. Predator doesnt say Hey kid give me a picture so it will help me find you as you leave school. He might say. You know we have been chatting for a long time. It would be so nice if you would send me a pic of you so I can put a face to the screen name. Oh you dont have a digital camera? Well I have an older one I dont use anymore. If you dont tell your parents I will send it to a PO box." (yes a predator will send gifts and money. Remember they are trying to become the "friend").
§ INSTANT MESSENGER- Instant Messenger is a text box that pops up when you are on the Internet with people that you have added to your "buddy list". This list is for friends, coworkers, or family. You can chat in real time to each other while still working on your computer. You must be logged onto the Internet for the messenger system to work. The popular messengers are Yahoo messenger, ICQ, AOL, and Msn messenger. Within these programs there is a buddy list. You need to look at your childs buddy list. Careful, you may be shocked. Some parents have found over 100 buddies. What is important is that you should know who every buddy is, their phone number and who their parents are. Do not be fooled by your son/daughter saying, Oh that is jimmy from my lunch table. Please remember that your son/daughter will protect a friend if they feel that he/she is a good friend. You must ensure you know everyone on that list or else your son/daughter may be talking to a 45-year old psychologist who is also a preferential sex offender and now your son/daugthers best friend. So go look and question!
§ WEBSITES- As you know you can put any subject into a search engine and find out about it. Do not think for a second that your children do not know how to do it also. Try asking them to help you find an Internet site on funny videos or whatever your hobby is. You will be amazed at how fast they show you what they can do. If you think the only way to get on adult sites is with a credit card you are very mistaken. There are thousands and thousands of adult sites catering to any subject you can think of, all for free. Some will kindly give your computer a virus while you are on them. Or open up web page after web page faster than you can close them. But remember if you have your computer in a place where just by walking by you can see what your child is doing then your children cannot be on these adult sites. That is also a reason to make a rule that the computer stays off when you are not home.
It has become popular for teens to make a personal website. The problem this department has had is threats or comments by the teen that made the site or others who write to their site. Also, too much personal information can be put on a site making it easy for a predator to find the teen. Ask your child if they have a personal webpage or BLOG. A BLOG is an online diary. Instead of writing in a book and hiding it under thier bed, children write on the BLOG page and people can view them. (just go to a search engine and type in blog. You will see what I mean).
§ PLAYING GAMES Some online games are downloaded and played alone. Others are played with others using the Internet in real time. Some of these game rooms have a section for chat. I went to play a helicopter attack game and looked at the chat box next to the game. There I read someone asking a child When are you ever going to tell me about yourself? The word "ever" tells me he has been trying to find out about this child for a while. It would be advisable to have your children show you what games they are playing over the Internet.
§ DOWNLOADING MUSIC As you may have heard on the news many people are being sued by the recording industry because people are downloading music without paying for it. There are web sites where you can download music from other people without paying for it. Most settlements are around $3,000.00. see www.riaa.com for more on these lawsuits
HERE ARE OTHER LINKS RELATED TO PROTECTING CHILDREN ONLINE: www.missingkids.com
ONLINE AUCTIONS: CAVEAT EMPTOR- LET THE BUYER BEWARE! The problem this department has encountered with online auctions is people not getting the merchandise that they paid for. Or, it is of far less value. For instance, you buy a rare item that is listed as mint condition. You pay the seller. It either never shows up or you get something of less value. What do you do? Can you get your money back from someone who lives in Florida? Will the Hopatcong Police go to Florida, find the person who scammed you and bring them to justice? Well it isnt that easy. This department will assist you by getting in touch with other authorities and trying to find the actual human being who is responsible for the scam. However, it involves the work of other agencies, other states and turns out to be very time consuming.
Rather than reinvent the wheel you may view all the precautions one should take whether being a buyer or seller on an Internet auction site. Below is the link to the Federal Trade Commissions website dealing with online auctions. We highly recommend you read it before you buy or sell anything on an auction site.