Parenting & Families

Protecting Your Children on the Information Highway

Children are at a much higher risk of becoming victims of Internet crimes than most parents realize. While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, it can also open the door to dangerous sexual predators. A recent study suggests almost 20 percent of children who use the Internet regularly have received a sexual solicitation in the past year. Dr. Gail Gross, a nationally recognized family and child development expert, educates parents about the risks the Internet can bring to their children and offers tips on how to keep them safe.

Key Risks

  • Exposure to inappropriate material. Unsuitable material that is sexual, hateful or violent in nature is frequently circulated online.
  • Physical molestation. Many child predators try to take online encounters offline. Providing personal information and arranging a face-to-face meeting can jeopardize the safety of the entire family.
  • Harassment. Online relationships can become more harassing, demeaning and aggressive than personal ones.
  • Financial and legal consequences. Children can find themselves in situations where they have compromising parent’s financial information or another person’s rights without knowing it.

Dr. Gross’s Tips to Minimize Your Child’s Threat of Being an Online Victim

  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.
  • Use parental controls from your Internet provider or blocking software; however, do not rely on this as the only form of monitoring.
  • Communicate with your child about online dangers and encourage them to share their online experiences with you.
  • Always maintain access to your child’s account and randomly check disks, Web history and e-mails.
  • Teach your child responsible use of the Web and limit their time online. There is much more to the Web than chat rooms, and there is much more to childhood than the Web.
  • Research what computer safeguards are being used in your child’s school, public libraries and in close friends’ homes.