As a parent, if you own a home computer and allow your children Internet access, you also need to be Internet literate. If you do not know how to access the Internet, take a class, read a book, or spend time with your children and let them show you the amazing world of cyberspace. Be aware of what is out there and prevent your children from gaining access to inappropriate websites and chat rooms.
Did you know that child molesters frequent chat rooms on the Internet? If you are not familiar with chat rooms, it is time you sat in on one. If your children have access to the Internet, they have access to child molesters who pose as other "teens" or confidants trying to develop friendships with unsuspecting children. Child molesters lure their victims with promises of friendship and material goods. And, too often, it works! Many adolescent Internet users look for friends - someone who will "chat" while their unsuspecting parents are not present.
Take charge of your computer. Set ground rules for Internet access and discuss with your children these crime prevention tips:
Place the computer in a centrally located area in your home - not in a child's bedroom. This prevents "secret" communications or access and also allows all members of the family to use it.
Talk to your children about the Internet. Explain that it is an excellent source of information, but some sites are inappropriate and they are expected to stay away from these sites.
Consider using software that can block or filter Internet sites or certain words that may indicate inappropriate sites.
Establish time frames for Internet access. This will encourage your children to obtain information in a timely manner and discourage aimless wandering.
Keep an open line of communication with your children. Discuss their Internet experiences and guide them to sites that are age-appropriate.
Finally, immediately report to your local law enforcement agency any attempts by others to meet your child or any inappropriate sexual conversations. If possible, save the conversation text for review by law enforcement. This will assist law enforcement in an investigation and possible prosecution.