Children are going online at younger and younger ages. In fact, the fastest growing group of Internet users is now preschoolers. Schools, libraries, coffee shops, and most homes now have Internet access. This can be a useful tool in helping children with homework and helping them learn. Unfortunately, access to the Internet also increases the risks that children face. Stalkers, sex offenders, scam artists and other bad guys are able to come in contact with children more easily. One in 5 children has received a sexual solicitation while on the Internet. It is not usually necessary to restrict children from the Internet altogether, but it is important to be educated and talk with your children about the risks, as well as the benefits, of using the Internet.
Most children who fall victim to computer sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, especially in chat rooms. They may be latch key kids. They may be kids who go on the computer to make new friends and pass time.
Beware if your child starts getting phone calls or mail from people you don't know or is making calls to numbers you don't recognize.
If your child turns off the computer quickly or changes the screen when you come into the room, it may be a sign that they are seeing inappropriate images or having inappropriate conversations that they don't want you to know about.
Children can become withdrawn from the family and other friends when they are being victimized. Computer sex offenders also work very hard to create problems between children and their parents so that they can become closer to the child.
Contact your Internet Service Provider and ask for help if harassment or cyberbullying occurs. You can also contact your local police department. Harassment is a crime whether it's in person or on the computer.
If your child receives any type of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. Also notify your online service. Work with them to set up better parental controls. It is a crime to knowingly send pornography to children under the age of 18.
While filters and blockers and parental controls are helpful and useful, they are not foolproof. Nothing is as helpful as good parental supervision.