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Staying Connected

Protecting Kids Online

Simple steps to get you started

Protecting kids online

As incredible as it is, digital technology hasn’t made the job of protecting our kids any easier—especially when you add mobile phones to the mix. On top of threats like phishing and malware, there are also concerns that are more about malicious behavior than malicious code. Talk to your kids about these issues, build a clear picture of how they see them and remember to always keep the home computer in a well-frequented area of your home.

Sexting

Sexting is when someone sends sexually explicit messages or photographs using mobile phones or instant messaging programs.  Why is it a concern to parents? According to a study conducted by CosmoGirl and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens have sent someone nude or semi-nude pictures or videos of themselves.  That’s one in five—and there is no taking those images back. They may be circulated among peers and posted to the Internet for anyone to see. On top of all this, because they are minors, it’s illegal.  Teens can find themselves facing charges for sending or possessing child pornography.

What can parents do? It’s important not to overreact; you could compound the problem. Talk to your kids and try to understand their perspective. Let them know that, while we hope friends will keep secrets, it doesn’t always work out that way. Consider setting texting limits for kids as well—most wireless carriers have options that can preset such limits. You can also periodically review the content of their phones with them. Don’t look at their phones without their knowledge, but do stay aware of what is on their devices.

Adult Content

Pornography, violent materials, hate speech and even chemical recipes for explosives, drugs and poisons are all available on the Internet. Even if your kids aren’t looking for adult content, there are many ways for them to encounter it accidentally—they could click bad links, open anonymous instant messages or just mistype a URL.

Filtering programs are strongly recommended for the youngest Internet users. Your Cox Internet service includes filters to block adult content, but there are a number of additional programs to consider if you want more protection, like Net Nanny, Cybersitter and others. Top Ten Reviews has ratings that can help you choose which one is right for you.

Kids are curious. Even though parental control programs may be in place, savvy computer users (like almost every teenager) can find ways around them. That’s why it’s important for kids to know that if they accidentally open an adult website, they should close it immediately and let you know. Adult sites often have backdoor programs designed to download malicious software that can damage your computer, so you’ll need to run a system scan to ensure that you haven’t been infected.

For more information about filtering and computer protection from Cox, sign in to Internet Tools.

Sexual Predators

This is a subject that no one likes to think about, but we all have to face. There are people online right now trying to connect with kids and win them over, most likely by impersonating children themselves. They want pictures of kids to trade within their illegal circles and, ultimately, they want to meet and harm children. The majority of these predators look for kids in chat rooms, social spaces and instant messaging.

The best approach is to never provide personal information online. Your kids should know to ask you before ever giving any personal information out to any website, especially on social sites like MySpace and Facebook, and never in a chat room or bulletin board system. Make sure they understand that the people they meet online are still strangers, and they should’t trust someone just because they say they’re the same age or gender.

Providing personal details, like addresses, what school they go to, where they like to hang out or who their friends are, can cause serious trouble and make your child a target. iSafe.org has a useful guide that offers tips on how to elude Internet predators.  Read this guide and talk to your kids about it.

 
 
 
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