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Tips for Staying Safe on the Internet

Teenagers and pre-teens are using the Internet more than ever before.  Whether it is on a computer at home, or on the cell phone or smart phone device, young people use the web to communicate with other kids and share information about themselves and their interests repeatedly throughout the course of the day.   With this new way to share personal information, however, comes inherent risks.   Kids are an easy targets for Internet predators, “cyber bullies” and other unseen individuals who may wish to do them harm.   The following is a helpful guide for kids and their parents to help them stay safe online at all times.

How to Fight Back Against Cyber-Bullying

Cyber-bullying takes place when one individual (or a group of people) attempts to harass and embarrass a friend or classmate via the Internet.   This can take place in a number of different ways, including posting harmful messages to the individual’s social networking accounts (MySpace, Facebook, etc.) or by sending anonymous emails to the target with threats or misinformation.   Rumors can also be spread in a lightning fast manner around the web – so it doesn’t take long for someone to plant misinformation and have the entire school or community know about it.

In order to combat these types of problems, the individual is urged NOT to engage in online arguments, or rumor spreading.  And if they do find themselves the victim of cyber bullying, report the incident to parents or school administrators immediately.  A growing number of states now have laws to help prosecute those who take part in bullying online.

What NOT to Post Online About Yourself

If you really want to stay safe against Internet predators, the best way to stay safe is not to post highly personal information about yourself online – or enter into chats or conversations with people that you don’t know.   People on the Internet are not always who they claim to be, so it is best to stay in communication with people you know.   And NEVER agree to see a stranger who you meet on the Internet.  Even adults have fallen prey to this activity, with sometimes-deadly results.

Tips for Parents of Kids on the Internet

If you have younger children who want to get online, it is important to monitor their Internet time closely.    The plan should go something like this:

  • Limit the amount of time the child spends online – an hour per day is sufficient for anything outside the realm of schoolwork.
  • Supervise your child’s Internet time – be there when they surf the net to get a better understanding of the sites they visit.
  • Install web blocking software – the industry has made great strides in “Net Nanny” software that allows you to block out unwanted sites.  It is still not a substitute for being present, but it helps busy parents do their job more effectively.
  • Talk to you kids about web safety – the more kids know from an early age about the dangers that exist online, the better equipped they will be to avoid problems as they get older and use the Internet more freely.

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