What Can I Do?
Kids Are Easy Victims -- What Can Parents Do?
Most children know more about the Internet than their parents. This knowledge gap keeps parents in the dark about their kids' online activities. As shown in the statistics below, parental supervision in cyberspace is dangerously lax:
  • Twenty percent of parents do not monitor their children's use of the Internet at all.
  • Only 52 percent of parents moderately supervise their children's Internet use.
  • An estimated 62 percent of teens report that their parents know little or nothing about their Web activities.
  • Seventy-one percent of all parents stop monitoring their child's use of the Internet after the child turns 14, not knowing that 72 percent of all Internet-related missing children are 15 years of age or older.
Internet predators take advantage of the lack of responsible adult supervision of children using the Internet.

What Should I Do if My Child Appears in Danger or Has Disappeared?
If your child engages in any of the behaviors described above, talk to him or her about it. Afterward, if you believe your child is in danger, do the following:
  • Immediately report anything you suspect may be a crime involving your child to your local police.
  • Leave the computer untouched. Do not try to be a detective.
  • Notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children cybertip hotline by clicking above or by calling 1-800-THE-LOST.
  • Visit www.missingkids.com for more information and educational resources.
Is My Child in Contact With an Internet Predator?
Your child may be in contact with an Internet predator if he or she displays any of the following warning signs:
  • Downloads photos of strangers
  • Downloads pornographic images
  • Quickly turns off the computer or changes software applications when someone enters the room
  • Spends unsupervised time in chat rooms
  • Waits until other family members are asleep or out of the home before going online
  • Receives unusual phone calls or gifts or letters in the mail
  • Is very secretive about online activities and the people he or she talks to
  • Visits Web sites dealing with death, destruction, or other morbid topics
  • Uses online accounts that you do not recognize or uses multiple e-mail addresses
  • Spends countless hours on the computer and his or her school grades have dropped
How Can I Protect My Child From Internet Dangers?
The key is to monitor your child's Internet activity. Make sure you and your child know what to watch out for on the Web. Remember, because of the anonymity offered by the Internet, people you meet online may not be who they claim to be. Encourage your children never to share personal information about themselves on the Internet. Smart Web Parents can protect their kids by doing the following:
  • Keep the computer in a family room so that you can monitor their Internet use.
  • Talk to your children about the dangers of the Internet. Emphasize that dangerous pedophiles use the anonymity offered by the Web to lure child victims. Stress that the rules you set are to protect them, not to control them. Make sure your children understand they need to be careful online. Encourage your children to create screen names and e-mails that do not reveal their personal information (name, age, school, etc.). Children who understand the risks posed by the Internet are more likely to cooperate with their parents in safeguarding their Internet activities.
  • Install an operating system that makes you the administrator, for example, Windows XP or Mac OS X. Create a password that will allow only you to control the computer's Internet settings, online content, and software that can be installed. This is an important step in monitoring your child's online activities, even when you are away from the home.
    • To find out how to take control of your Windows XP computer, click here.
    • To find out how to take control of your Macintosh OS X computer, click here.
    • If you have an earlier version of Windows such as Windows 2000, Windows 98, or Windows NT and would like to know how to take control of your computer, do the following: Click "Start" on your taskbar, select "Help" when the new window opens, click on the "Index" tab, then type in the words user account. Follow the instructions provided to become the administrator.
Note: If you are unable to establish yourself as your computer's administrator after following the steps in the links above, then someone else has been designated as the administrator. If the administrator is your child, you can regain control of your computer through your child's user ID and password. Once you become the new administrator, you can control the Internet content and Web sites your child has access to.

  • Tell your children that you have the right to monitor their computer use and that if you suspect there is a problem, you will randomly monitor their Internet activities.
  • Do not allow your child to have multiple e-mail accounts or create accounts without your knowledge. You may insist that your children give you their e-mail and chat room passwords. Internet accounts and primary screen names should be in your name.
  • Tell your children to let you know immediately if a stranger tries to contact them on the Web, whether through an Instant Message, chat room, or even an e-mail.
  • Go online with your kids and find out who they send Instant Messages to and/or chat with. Prohibit the use of private chat rooms as well as adult-oriented rooms. Make sure you know the identity of everyone on their contact and/or buddy lists. To become more familiar with Instant Messaging, click here.
  • Make sure your child knows never to divulge personal information on the Internet, including his or her name, age, photos, gender, physical description, telephone number, address, etc. Internet predators look at personal profiles stored on the Internet to find their victims.
  • The federal government has enacted the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to protect your child's privacy when he/she registers with certain Web sites. For more information about COPPA, click here.
  • Set rules as to what sites your children are allowed to visit and which ones they are not. Enforce these rules, and set time limits on their computer use.
  • Do not allow your children to chat (send Instant Messages) during homework-related computer time. Click here to find out how to monitor your child's Instant Messages.
Ten Things Parents Can Do:
1. Talk with your children about their online activities and the risks and ethical responsibilities of surfing the Web. Tell them you have a responsibility to monitor their Internet use and that you will.

2. Keep the computer in a common room in your home and set time limits for its use.

3. Make sure your child knows never to divulge personal information as they surf the Internet.

4. Set rules as to what sites your children are allowed to visit and which ones they are not.

5. Tell your children to let you know immediately if a stranger tries to make contact with them on the Web.

6. Install an operating system that makes you the administrator of the family computer, enabling you to control Web browser settings, content that can be viewed online, and software that can be installed. Consider installing third-party filtering software.

7. Insist your children give you their e-mail and chat room passwords. Prohibit them from having multiple e-mail accounts.

8. Make sure your children know what online activities are against the law. Illegal activities include making threats against someone else online, hacking, downloading pirated software, creating bootlegged software, sharing music files online, and (for children under 18) making purchased over the Internet.

9. Go online with your kids and find out who they send Instant Messages to and/or chat with. Do not allow your children to send Instant Messages during homework-related computer time.

10. Regularly scan the files on your family computer to see what kind of material your children have downloaded and whether it was obtained legally.

For Kids Only: Pledge to Be an Honest Web Surfer
Make a pledge not to abuse your Internet privileges. You can be an Honest Web Surfer by promising to follow the Code of Conduct for Honest Web Surfers:
  • I will talk to my parents about what I'm doing online and discuss with them the Web sites I'm visiting.
  • I promise not to talk to people whom I do not know, and I promise I will never give any stranger my telephone number or address.
  • I promise not to add anyone to my IM buddy list that I met in a chat room because I do not know if they are who they claim to be.
  • I promise to immediately let my parents or guardian know if a stranger tries to contact me while online, whether by e-mail or an Instant Message.
  • I promise not to surf sites that are bad for meĀ - including sex sites, hate sites, or sites that talk about violence or drugs.
  • I will not sabotage my parents' ability to be the administrator of our computer.
  • For my own safety, I will give my online passwords to my parents if they ask for them.
  • I will never agree to meet anyone with whom I become acquainted online.
  • I promise not to download any music that my parents or I have not purchased or was not available for free.
  • I will never hack into and/or destroy any computer system.
  • I promise not to create any business or auction any goods online, either directly or for someone else.
  • I will never make purchases using someone else's credit card. That is a crime.
  • For my own safety, I will not chat with any of the following individuals: hackers, bootlegged software peddlers, and members of hate groups or religious cults. They can expose me to danger and illegal activity.
  • I will not use the Internet to threaten, harass, or bully anyone. I will not participate in e-mail attacks on others, and I promise not to post messages damaging to another person's reputation.
  • I agree to follow these rules because I care about what may happen to me, to my parents, to other persons, and to my country.