Most children and adolescents now use the internet to access social networking sites. Although there may be a sense of privacy in this information exchange, anything that appears on the internet is actually available to anyone and everyone.
Children are frequently exposed to inappropriate information and material on the internet, either by intent or by accident. The most obvious is the easy access to pornography, but there are also sites that promote and encourage substance abuse, drinking, eating disorders, racism, gambling, and misinformation about health issues. Even more concerning is information that is displayed on personal sites. Approximately half of all adolescent profile sites contain personal references to one or more of these at-risk behaviors.
The internet has also become a primary source of bullying. Kids are using emails and instant messages to intimidate or send hurtful information and embarrassing photographs.
But probably the greatest concern to parents however, is the risk of on-line solicitation. A recent study found that one in five children and adolescents has been solicited over the internet, and over 700 children, were abducted in 2004 by someone they met over the internet.
So here are some things you can do to combat these serious dangers:
- Limit all screen time to no more than 2 hours per day, including time on the computer.
- Children should be supervised by an adult when using a computer. It is best to keep computers in the house in a public place and never in a child's room where the door can be closed.
- Consider using filtering devises to block access to unwanted sites, or getting additional software to track where your child has been. You should also teach your children to follow basic safety rules when using the internet.
- Never share personal information with anyone, even with close friends.
- Never give out passwords
- Never get together with someone you meet online
- Never respond to something that makes you uncomfortable or hurts your feelings.
- Never send any message you would not send face-to-face.