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Welcome to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s podcast series. Today we’re here to talk about Internet safety with Bill Shore, Internet specialist for the FBI. He can tell us a little more about the risks the internet poses and what you can do to prevent your child from any internet dangers.
Bill, what are some of the potential dangers for our kids that come with internet usage?
Bill Shore: Well, because of the vast amount of information available on the internet, and the numerous networking sites and instant messaging services, there are endless possibilities for danger on the internet. But it can be a safe place and worthwhile activity for children, if you are both prepared to protect against such things.
Host: Can you go into a little more detail about these networking sites and instant messaging?
Bill Shore: Sure. Networking sites these days are very popular, especially MySpace and Facebook. They are essentially places for people to meet and interact with one another, but there are some people who misuse these Web sites for things like stalking and meeting young children.
MySpace, particularly, is something that you as a parent should monitor – anyone can get an account, as long as they are 14 years of age; however, there is no age verification, and it is not uncommon for children and teens to lie and say that they are older, and for older people looking to meet young, impressionable teens, to say that they are younger than they truly are.
Instant messaging, too, can be harmless, but because the program is intended for people over the age of 13, there are very few things that a parent can do to control the privacy settings.
Host: So, should parents simply block internet usage all together? What are some options for safeguarding our children?
Bill Shore: No, parents shouldn’t block the Internet altogether – there are plenty of educational and informational sites out there, and if used properly and with some caution, even networking sites and instant messaging can be fun and harmless for teenagers.
A few things parents can do are simple: keep the computer in an open, family-centered part of the house; talk to your child about his or her email account, and be sure that you have access to know what is coming in and what is going out.
Talking to your child goes a long way, keeping the lines of communication open is crucial too – remind them that strangers on the internet are just like strangers on the street, and the same rules apply. Remind them that if they ever feel uncomfortable, they should close the browser or instant messenger service and talk to you about it.
Host: What are some warning signs that your child is misusing the internet?
Bill Shore: There are a few things to check for – if your child closes the browser window every time you enter a room, it may be a sign that they’re doing something they shouldn’t be. Ask them in a calm manner what they’re looking at – or offer to show them something on the Internet.
Sometimes, surfing the web together can be a good way to both bond and be on the lookout for what your child’s internet safety habits are.
Also, you can check the browser history at any time – this function shows every website that has been visited on the browser, and the sites are usually stored for up to six weeks. Check out the things that your child has been checking out and talk to them about it if you have concerns – taking away Internet privileges will often prompt curiosity – as a parent, you have to remember that your house and personal computer are not the only place that children can access the internet anymore.
Host: How can I monitor my child’s internet activity outside of the house?
Bill Shore: Find out what the Internet policies are at your child’s school, the local library, or anywhere else they may have access to a computer. Don’t be afraid to talk to the parents of your children’s friends, as well – not only are you trying to protect your child, you could be offering valuable advice to them as well.
Host: Thank you, Bill. It’s important for parents to understand the risks involved with their child’s use of the Internet – we must be prepared to talk with our kids about the dangers and prevent them from happening on our end, as well.
To learn more visit Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC’s Injury Prevention website.
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