The proliferation of child predators using the Internet to target young victims has become a national crisis. A study shows one in seven children will be solicited for sex online this year.
So why are some teens so trusting of people they meet online? For many students there is a sense that what happens online can’t hurt them. Unfortunately, we are finding that many teens are posting personal information in chat rooms and on social networking sites making them easy prey for child predators. In this video, provided from the i-Safe curriculum, you can see how what happens when one student finds out the hard way that you can’t trust what people tell you online.
Just this week, the Texas attorney general’s office arrested four men in Gregg County for Online Solicitation of a Minor during a sting operation. Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) investigators conducted an online undercover operation that resulted in suspects arriving at a predetermined location to meet with children they solicited for sexual contact. Charged with second-degree felonies were Johnny K. Houston, Jr., Joaquin Amilcar Pineda, Shane Jeffrey Chapman and Nehemias Pineda.
By educating yourself and your children, you can help make the Internet a safe and valuable tool for your family.
The most important thing you can do is to pay close attention to your children and encourage them to confide in you. They should know that you will be calm and protective if they tell you about something that has frightened or disturbed them.
- Teach your kids not to give out personal information such as their last name, your last name, their home address, or phone number, especially in a chat room, over a bulletin board, or to an online pen pal without your permission.
- Make sure your kids know not to agree to a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online.
- Instruct your kids never to respond to email or chat messages that make them feel uncomfortable or from someone they don’t know. Stress that they should show such messages to you.
- Surf the Internet with your kids. If it is not possible for you to actually surf with your kids, at least talk to them about the Web sites they are visiting.
- Place the computer in a public room in your home so that even when you are not surfing with your kids, you can monitor their use. Do not allow computers in bedrooms or the use of webcams.
- Establish ground rules for your kids’ Internet usage, including the hours they may surf and the kinds of Web sites they may visit. Post the rules near the computer.
- Learn how to use parental controls and archiving features. You should be able to check your child’s email account and review the sites your child has visited on the Internet.
Protect Your Family’s Privacy
- Become familiar with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which requires Web sites that are directed toward children under 13 to obtain a parent’s permission before collecting many types of information. For more information on COPPA, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site.
- Be informed before deciding whether to give consent. Check a Web site’s information collection practices before you decide whether or not to give consent. Keep in mind that you can give a Web site consent to collect information, but refuse to allow your child’s information to be passed on to a third party.
- You can always change your mind and revoke consent. If at any time you change your mind about a Web site’s collecting your child’s information, you may revoke your consent and have your child’s information deleted.
- Be willing to ask a Web site to delete your child’s information. If you think a Web site might already have collected information from your kids, ask to see what information they have collected and request that it be deleted.
Staying Safe When Using Blogs
A blog (short for Web Log) is a website of your own, where you enter information ordered by date. It’s an online diary or online journal that is shared with others online. Talk to your child about blogging. Blogging can be a great creative writing exercise for your child. Just make sure they understand how to stay safe.
- Blogs should not contain identifying information that someone could use to locate the blogger or anyone he or she writes about.
- Remind your child that once a blog is posted, it’s out there. You can take it down, but you can’t take it back.
- Think twice about who may be hurt by something written in a blog. Some bloggers bully, slander, harrass and intimidate others. Sometimes they simply have not thought about the effect their private thoughts could have on others when posted for all to read.
- Some children have unintentionally revealed information about their families that could lead to identity theft. Teach your child about identity theft and how to avoid it.
- Help your child select an age-appropriate blog site and make sure personal information is hidden from public view. As always, check privacy policies carefully.
- Read your children’s blogs! Encourage their creative efforts. Children (like everyone else) are sensitive to criticism of their writing and respond readily to praise. You can guide them and protect them by being their number one reader and fan.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office works to protect children by using the latest technology to track down some of the most profoundly evil predators online. The CEU proactively seeks out and arrests predators who commit crimes against children using technology and online sources. Attorney General Ken Paxton urges all parents and teachers to become aware of the risks our children face on the internet and take steps to help ensure their children’s safety.