Internet Safety for Young Students
Not long ago, the Internet was almost entirely for the use of adults. Today both teens and their parents use computers, laptops and even cell phones to go on the Internet. Once online, kids can do homework, play games or socialize with friends. In fact, being online is so common and natural that it can be hard for kids to ever imagine life without their computers or the Internet. Although going online might seem like a harmless way to have fun, there are dangers that can make the Internet a scary place for children and teenagers.
When a kid goes online, he or she literally has the ability to talk or chat with anyone around the world, and anyone around the world can talk to them. Because the Internet is basically unmonitored, this can cause a problem when it comes to criminals and people who prey on children. Because there is so much information online, kids are also exposed to information and sites that are not appropriate for minors. Before going online, children should know how to stay safe by understanding the risks that are associated with the Internet. They should also understand how to reduce those risks and know which places are the most dangerous for children.
As a teen it’s important to remember that the Internet is full of dangerous risks. The types of risks that kids face are varied and can range from exposure to sexual or violently explicit images or movies, to contact with people who would harm them, like child molesters. Child molesters are also called pedophiles. Pedophiles often use the Internet as a tool to locate and victimize children. These people may use the Internet to gather information about kids that they are stalking, such as the name of the school that they attend or even their home address. Cyberbullying and online harassment are also risks that come with Internet usage. Often, cyber-bullying is constant harassment that involves other teens and can turn into a dangerous situation that leads to depression or even suicide. When kids share too much personal information, they also run the increased risk of identity theft.
Most Dangerous Areas on the Internet
Almost any website that kids go to can potentially expose them to harmful people or situations. There are certain types of websites that are more dangerous than others, however. These websites are often places that are popular and that attract a large number of kids, such as online fan clubs or forums and social networking sites. Sometimes a pedophile or other criminal will even pretend to be a teenager or younger child to make their intended victim feel more comfortable and easy to lure. Social networking sites are dangerous because kids will often share private and personal information and pictures about themselves. Often kids will want to grow their circle of “friends” and will allow people that they do not know to join their social network.
E-mails, instant messages and texting are another dangerous aspect of going online. Although texting usually requires a mobile device like a cell phone, it does require Internet access to send and receive messages and images. Anyone with a teen’s mobile number can send messages to the device. Messages can be explicit and may even involve sexting, which involves nude pictures of other people and themselves. When a teen sends a sext or a sexually explicit text, especially an image, that image can spread to anyone with a mobile phone, including other kids in school and unknown adults. Emails, instant messages and texting can also be used by other kids as a way to harass or bully someone.
How to Reduce the Risk
The Internet will always be a potentially dangerous place for children and teens. But there are smart ways for kids to surf the net and avoid becoming a victim. When online, kids shouldn’t post or give out their name, address, phone number, or any other identifiable information on social networking sites, forums or blogs. If they are a member of a social networking site, they should use the privacy settings that are available and limit who can read see or join their social network. They should only join forums or other groups that have a good reputation and are strictly monitored. Kids should never use their real names and they should never attempt to meet in person anyone that they’ve met online. Often these people are not who they claim to be and a meeting can end with the child being kidnapped, abused or both. Parents play a big part in keeping kids safe from online predators. A parent should talk with their teen about the risks involved in posting information, images and comments on the Internet. What’s said or posted as a teen will remain online forever and can be potentially damaging for the rest of his or her life. Parents and teens should establish an open communication policy so that the teen feels comfortable discussing concerns or problems encountered over the Internet.
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