The Internet has become an immensely powerful tool for people of all ages, offering a wealth of useful information, worldwide marketing and e-commerce opportunities, entertainment, social networking portals, and a variety of other benefits.
Unfortunately, the Internet has also become a useful tool for criminals looking for an opportunity to take advantage of other users. Identity theft and the stalking and exploitation of children are just some of the many Internet-related crimes that anyone - of any age - that is online today should be concerned with.
There are steps that Internet users can take to help avoid becoming a victim of an Internet crime. In addition to reviewing the tips below and visiting some of the other resources listed, parents should contact their local schools or local law enforcement offices to ask about Internet safety training that may be available in their community.
- Talk to children about not responding to offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat or other communications. Tell your children about potential online danger and that what someone tells them online might not be true.
- Keep the computer in the family room or another open area of your home.
- Let children show you what they can do online, and visit their favorite sites with them.
- Know who children are exchanging e-mail with, and only let them use chat areas when you can supervise.
- Be aware of any other computers your child may be using, such as a friend's computer or a computer at the library.
- Internet accounts should be in the parent's name with parents having the primary screenname, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering software or devices.
- Talk to children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it is not their fault if they see something upsetting.
- If you suspect online "stalking" or sexual exploitation of a child, report it to your local law enforcement agency. The Nation Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has a system for identifying online predators and child pornographers and contributing to law enforcement investigations, called CyberTipline.
- To keep children safe online, tell them to:
- Never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online.
- Never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or send photos to people they do not know.
- Never give out identifying information such as name, home address, school name or telephone number.
- Never download pictures from an unknown source.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) - A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety
i-SAFE - The Leader in Internet Safety Education
NetSmartz (Brought to you by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America)
GetNetWise - Kids' safety, SPAM, Security and Privacy information for online users.
Common Sense Media - A non-profit organization that presents and reviews for parents the many sources of media that are "hot" with kids right now.
Net Family News - A non-profit public service that provides a forum and kid-tech news for parents and educators.
Cyberbully - One of many sites devoted to the prevention and intervention of online bullying and inappropriate use of the Internet.
SafeKids.com - Offering news, guidelines and tips for online safety.
Justice.gov - Resource to find the best federal agency to go to report a cybercrime to.