Is Your Child Safe On The Internet?

I'm not a parent, but I have been moderating internet forums for several years. In that time, I have come across characters who, if I met them 'in the real world', I'd cross to the other side of the street. I've learned from experience that the people you talk to online are not always who they say they are, and that this can cause you more pain than you might think. It is very easy to come to trust someone who says all the right things online. However, do we *really* know who is on the other side of the computer screen? Even if this isn't a concern for you, it may be for your child if she spends a lot of time online. In case she doesn't already know them, here are some online safety tips for your teen.

Do not give out any personal information! This sounds pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised. Information such as first and last names, phone numbers, ages and what school someone attends have been used to track someone down 'in real life', to disastrous results. This also applies to screen names-make sure your screen name doesn't give out information that you wouldn't want the wrong person to find.

Be careful what you post online. There's really no such thing as 'private' when it comes to the internet. Pictures and comments that are posted online are out there permanently; even if you something down yourself, that doesn't mean that someone else hasn't copied it or that the wrong person hasn't seen it. Don't post pictures of behavior online that you wouldn't want two or three million of your closest friends seeing. These things, along with other personally identifying information, can be used by online predators for less-than-kosher purposes.

If you want to meet someone in person, use caution. This also sounds obvious but, again, you'd be surprised. If a new online friend is really aggressive about wanting to meet in person, that could be a red flag. If you do decide to meet, do your homework-a simple Google search or conversation with other friends can tell you whether this person is someone you want to know offline. When you meet, meet only in public places during the day. Let friends or an adult know where you are going and when you will be back.

And last, but not least-

Trust your gut! If something or someone makes you uncomfortable for any reason, stop talking to them and let someone know. Also, let the site you met them on know. You may not be the first person who has felt this way about someone.

Here are just a few ideas your teen could use to ensure her safety online. I'm not advocating hovering over her shoulder every minute, but it helps to know that you've given your child the tools she needs to be safe on the internet. While I like to think most people are decent, there are enough creeps out there to convince me otherwise.


  1. Well I'm a parent of 3; one of which is 14 years old and I'll tell you what, I don't think anyone's child is "safe" on the Internet. I'm a firm advocate of "hovering over her shoulder" as you said in the article. In fact to make that hovering easier, I'd recommend having the computer in an open environment in the house; ours is in the living room. There are far too many things that our kids do not need to be exposed to yet. (or at all for that matter--but we can only protect them for a limited amount of time)

  2. That's how our computer is set up-in the living room. My daughter tends to be naive and overly trusting...that might be a good trait otherwise, but not online. I try to keep a n eye on her to make sure she doesn't trust the wrong person.

  3. My son may not be old enough to be on the internet by himself yet, but with all the risky things online now, there is no telling how much more dangerous it's going to be in 5 years. I am not looking forward to that.