Durham Regional Police give their top tips on how both parents and kids should use caution when surfing the net.
The internet is not only only a fabulous educational resource, it's a lot of fun for both parents and kids. It's a great way to shop, check sports scores, read the news, and play games - the list is endless. However, as great as getting online can be, we always need to be aware that not everyone we run into online is who or what they seem. To help us with a little refresher on how to keep ourselves and our kids keep safe while online, Durham Regional Police has provided a few safety tips.
- Never give out identifying information-- home address, school name, or telephone number in a public message such as chat or bulletin boards, and be sure you're dealing with someone that both you and your child know and trust before giving it out via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or unlisting your child's name if your service allows it.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission and supervision. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child.
- Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance. In the case of an email containing threats contact your local police agency.
- Should you stumble upon a website that contains child pornography while online, make note of the website’s URL address and report it immediately to your local police agency. A website’s URL is the series of letters usually starting with http://www.
- If you receive any email messages containing child pornographic images contact your local police agency immediately. Do not delete the message until advised to do so by the police. Deleting the message prematurely may destroy valuable information that can help the police trace the person responsible for sending the message.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent himself or herself. Someone indicating that they are a "12-year-old boy or girl" could in reality be an adult.
- Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that's "too good to be true" probably is. Be especially careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your home.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer. A child or teenager's excessive use of online services or bulletin boards, especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem. Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.
- The computer should always be kept in a common area of your home such as a family room rather than the child's bedroom.
- The Internet is no different than the real world, get to know your children’s "online friends" just as you would get to know all of their other friends.
- Never give out your password to anyone even if the person claims to work for your Internet Service Provider. No reputable company will ever ask for your password.