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April/May 2000  -  Volume 3  -  Issue 3


A Guide to Internet Safety

By Special Agent Marcus Lawson
Founder and President of The Force Against Child Abuse

The Internet is a wonderful tool. Everyday, it becomes more and more of a communications medium. Once a data base of information used primarily by "hi tech" computer "Geeks", today's Internet is a vast communication network that allows people from all corners of the earth to talk and share information at lightening speed.

The Internet opens doors to the world like no other medium in history. The internet will give your young person opportunities to experience other cultures, make friends and learn new things like never before.

The unfortunate fact is that, like the rest of the world, there are also real life dangers on the Internet. Children especially need instruction on how to protect themselves while online. The answer is education, not banishment from the Internet. It would be a shame to deny this wondrous tool to our children simply because of an element that can be thwarted with knowledge.

Most parents are aware that the Internet is a place where children may be exposed to inappropriate material. Although this can be the case, by far the greatest danger to children on the Internet is interactive communication between people. Statistically, most children are molested by an adult who is known by the child and trusted. Child molesters know this, and are willing to invest the time necessary to become known and trusted.

Potential child abusers use a multitude of methods to seduce victims and/or arrange opportunities to meet them in person. The anonymity of the Internet allows a child predator to be any age, sex or occupation. It is very common for instance for a middle-aged male offender to be an attractive teenage boy in an effort to seduce a lonely teen girl.

The most practical and realistic way to protect your children from any kind of assault, be it online or personal, is education and open communication. Share with your children the reality of the nature of some people in our society that would hurt them, learn everything you can about online safety, and then allow an open forum of communication where they feel free to discuss with you anything that makes them feel bad or uncomfortable.

Online Safety Tips:

  • Do not give out personal information such as first and last name, address, telephone number, school or work address.
  • Do not allow children or teens to send an online friend a self picture or other visual identifiers such as pictures of their house.
  • Children and tens should be made aware of the "private areas" of their bodies.
  • Encourage children and teens not to respond to any messages that are mean or in anyway make them feel uncomfortable. If they are being treated inappropriately they should disconnect the chat immediately.
  • Develop and discuss with children and teens household rules for going online. Decide on the time of day, the length of time and appropriate areas for them to visit.
  • Consider purchasing Internet filtering software that can greatly reduce the chance of exposure.
  • Do not trust that people on the Internet are really who they represent themselves to be. Remember that many online predators pretend to be people that they are not and will often take the persona of someone who would be of interest to a child.
  • Parents should know who their children's online friends are.
  • Always maintain open, honest, constant communication with children and teens about their experiences on the Internet.
  • Do not allow children or teens to personally meet with anyone they befriend online without first checking with their parents.
  • Trust your instincts. If someone is "too good to be true", they probably are just that.
  • Research your options, call your provider, find out more about your system and how you can make it work for you.

For more information contact The Force AGAINST Child Abuse, P.O. Box 345, Spokane, Washington, 99210, 1-888-747-SAFE or email: info@endabuse.com .  Excerpted from brochure by Special Agent Marcus Lawson who has over 15 years experience as a federal investigator and has specialized in child sexual abuse and child abuse exploitation crimes for over 10 years.

 


April/ May 2000 - Volume 3 Issue 3 - Articles


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