have traditionally been trusted by both children and adults
as reliable and accurate sources of information. The rapid
growth of online services and Internet access has added a
new dimension to modern computing. Through a computer modem
and phone line children now have access to an almost endless
supply of information and opportunity for interaction. However,
there can be real risks and dangers for an unsupervised child.
services give children resources such as encyclopedias, current
events coverage, and access to libraries and other valuable
material. They can also play games and communicate with friends.
The ability to "click" from one area to another
appeals to a child's natural impulsivity and curiosity and
needs for immediate gratification or feedback.
teach their children not to talk with strangers, not to open
the door if they are home alone, and not to give out information
on the telephone to unknown callers. Most parents also monitor
where their children go, who they play with, and what TV shows,
books, or magazines they are exposed to. However, many parents
don't realize that the same level of guidance and supervision
must be provided for a child's online experience.
can not assume that their child will be protected by the supervision
or regulation provided by the online services. Most "chat
rooms" or "news groups" are completely unsupervised.
Because of the anonymous nature of the "screen name,"
children who communicate with others in these areas will not
know if they are "talking" with another child or
a child predator pretending to be a child or teen. Unlike
the mail and visitors that a parent sees a child receive at
home, e-mail or "chat room" activity is not seen
by parents. Unfortunately, there can be serious consequences
to children who have been persuaded to give personal information,
(e.g. name, passwords, phone number, address) or have agreed
to meet someone in person.
of the other risks or problems include:
accessing areas that are inappropriate or overwhelming;
information that promotes hate, violence, and pornography;
being mislead and bombarded with intense advertising;
being invited to register for prizes or to join a club when
they are providing personal or household information to
an unknown source; and
spent online is time lost from developing real social skills.
order to make a child's online experience more safe and educational,
the amount of time a child spends online and "surfing
a child that talking to "screen names" in a "chat
room" is the same as talking with strangers;
a child never to give out any personal identifying
information to another individual or website online;
a child to never agree to actually meet someone they
have met online;
give a child credit card numbers or passwords that will
enable online purchases or access to inappropriate services
a child that not everything they see or read online is true;
use of the parental control features offered with your online
service, or obtaining commercially available software programs,
to restrict access to "chat lines," news groups,
and inappropriate websites;
for an e-mail address only if a child is mature enough to
manage it, and plan to periodically monitor the child's
e-mail and online activity;
a child to use the same courtesy in communicating with others
online as they would if speaking in person -- i.e. no vulgar
or profane language, no name calling, etc.; and
that a child follow the same guidelines at other computers
that they might have access to, such as those at school,
libraries, or friend's homes.
should remember that communicating online does not prepare
children for real interpersonal relationships. Spending time
with a child initially exploring an online service and periodically
participating with a child in the online experience gives
parents an opportunity to monitor and supervise the activity.
It is also an opportunity to learn together.
#59 Updated 05/97
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