Internet Safety Tips

Online Rules Every Kid Should Follow

  • Never share your personal information (like name, age, or location).

  • Never share your password.

  • Don't download games or programs, even if they're free, without getting Mom's or Dad's permission first.

  • Never click on e-mails from anyone you don't know.

  • Don't click on anything that pops up in another window -- even if it looks like a free game or a trip to Disney.

  • Always be polite and think before you type.

  • Never chat with someone who isn't your friend in real life.

Cyberbullying

Young people are using the Internet more than ever and most have Internet access from home. For many children, the Internet isn't simply a convenient way to research or fun after-school activity - it's a big part of their social life. Emailing and chatting with friends are a child"s most common online activities, after studying and playing games. But like many other social situations, some kids bully others online.

Cyberbullying is similar to other types of bullying, except it takes place online and through text messages sent to cell phones. Cyberbullies can be classmates, online acquaintances, and even anonymous users, but most often they do know their victims.

Some examples of ways kids bully online are:

  • Sending someone mean or threatening emails, instant messages, or text messages.

  • Excluding someone from an instant messenger buddy list or blocking their email for no reason.

  • Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.

  • Breaking into someone's email or instant message account to send cruel or untrue messages while posing as that person.

  • Creating websites to make fun of another person such as a classmate or teacher.

  • Using websites to rate peers as prettiest, ugliest, etc.

Both boys and girls sometimes bully online and just as in face-to-face bullying, tend to do so in different ways. Boys more commonly bully by sending messages of a sexual nature or by threatening to fight or hurt someone. Girls more often bully by spreading rumors, sending messages that make fun of someone, sharing secrets, or to exclude others.

The Effects of Cyberbullying 

Victims of cyberbullying may experience many of the same effects as children who are bullied, such as a drop in grades, low self-esteem, a change in interests, or depression. However cyberbullying can seem more extreme to its victims because of several factors:

  • Occurs in children's home. Being bullied at home can take away the place children feel most safe.

  • Can be harsher. Often kids say things online that they wouldn't say in person, mainly because they can"t see the other person's reaction. 

  • Far-reaching. Kids can send emails making fun of someone to their entire class or school with a few clicks, or post them on a website for the whole world to see.

  • Anonymity. Cyberbullies often hide behind screen names and email addresses that don't identify who they are. Not knowing who is responsible for bullying messages can add to a victim's insecurity.

  • May seem inescapable. It may seem easy to get away from a cyberbully-just get offline - but for some kids not going online takes away one of the major places they socialize.

Cyberbullying can be a complicated issue, especially for adults who are not as familiar with using the Internet, instant messenger, or chat rooms as kids. But like more typical forms of bullying, it can be prevented when kids know how to protect themselves and parents are available to help.

National Crime Prevention Council Web site: https://www.ncpc.org/resources/cyberbullying/

Social Networking Websites

"It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?"

Remember that phrase from your own childhood? It’s still a valid question, but now, it comes with a twist: "Do you know where your kids are — and who they’re chatting with online?"

Social networking sites have morphed into a mainstream medium for teens and adults. These sites encourage and enable people to exchange information about themselves, share pictures and videos, and use blogs and private messaging to communicate with friends, others who share interests, and sometimes even the world-at-large. And that’s why it’s important to be aware of the possible pitfalls that come with networking online.

Some social networking sites attract pre-teens — even kids as young as 5 or 6. These younger-focused sites don’t allow the same kinds of communication that teens and adults have, but there are still things that parents can do to help young kids socialize safely online. In fact, when it comes to young kids, the law provides some protections — and gives parents some control over the type of information that children can disclose online. For sites directed to children under age 13, and for general audience sites that know they’re dealing with kids younger than 13, there’s the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). It requires these sites to get parental consent before they collect, maintain, or use kids’ information. COPPA also allows parents to review their child’s online profiles and blog pages.

Parents sometimes can feel outpaced by their technologically savvy kids. Technology aside, there are lessons that parents can teach to help kids stay safer as they socialize online.

Social Networking Sites: A Parent's Guide (PDF)

Talk to your kids about the risks

Explain that online information and images can live forever. It can be very hard and sometimes impossible to take down information that is posted, and photos and information may already have been copied and posted elsewhere.

  • Tell your children not to post any identifying information online. This includes their cell phone number, address, hometown, school name, and anything else that a stranger could use to locate them.

  • Explain that anyone in the world can access what they post online. Tell your children that some college admissions boards and employers are checking social networking sites before they admit students or hire people.

  • Remind your children never to give out their passwords to anyone but you