It is unfortunate that advances in computer technology have allowed individuals to use the internet and other online services to sexually exploit children. Your home computer can be tremendous source of knowledge for your children, while leaving them vulnerable to seduction and manipulation by online predators. In an effort to keep our children safe and free from the fear of becoming a victim, the St. Helens Police Department would encourage you to share these internet safety tips with your entire family.
Internet Safety For Kids
- Never give out identifying information such as your name, home address, telephone number, or school name in a chat room or on a bulletin board.
- Never send a picture of yourself to someone you do not know.
- Never respond to messages that are obscene, threatening or that make you feel uncomfortable.
- Be careful when someone offers you something for nothing, such as gifts or money.
- Be careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
- Tell a parent or guardian right away if you come across information that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Never arrange a face to face meeting with someone you met online.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you cannot see or hear the person, it would be easy for someone to say that “she” is a “12 year old girl,” when in fact that person could be an older man.
Internet Tips for Parents
What are signs that your child might be at risk on-line?
- Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
- You find pornography on your child’s computer.
- Your child is receiving calls from men you don’t know or is making calls to numbers you don’t recognize.
- Your child receives mail, gifts or other packages from someone you don’t know.
- Your child turns off the computer monitor quickly or changes the screen on the monitor when you walk into the room.
- Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
- Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.
What should you do if you suspect your child is communicating with an on-line predator?
- Talk openly with your child about your suspicions.
- Review what is on your computer. If you do not know how, seek help from a knowledgeable person.
- Use Caller ID to determine who is calling your child. Consider other telephone services that allow you to prevent your number from appearing on someone else’s Caller ID, redialing features or call blocking.
- Monitor your child’s access to all types of electronic communication (i.e. chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.) and monitor your child’s e-mail.
What can you do to minimize the chances of your child becoming a victim?
- Communicate and talk to your child about the potential dangers on-line.
- Spend time with your child on-line. Have them teach you about the internet and their favorite on-line destinations.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house.
- Utilize parental controls and/or blocking software. Some of this may be provided by your service provider.
- Always maintain access to your child’s on-line account and check his/her e-mail.
- Teach your child the responsible use of the internet and that there is much more to being on-line than chat rooms.
- Find out what safeguards are utilized by your child’s school, the public library, and homes of their friends.
If your child has received child pornography or other sexually explicit images, or has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age, you should immediately contact your local law enforcement agency. In order to preserve evidence, please leave your computer turned off and do not attempt to copy any of the text or photos found on your computer. For more information on internet safety check out the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.