WASHINGTON - Virtually every expert says the real responsibility for defending kids from predators on the Internet falls on parents.
Parents should know what their children are doing on the Net and work to build their self-esteem and make them less vulnerable to adult approaches, child psychologists believe.
"Children are told not to accept rides from strangers, and the same is true of the Internet," said S. Michael Plaut, associate professor of psychology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of several Internet-related articles. "Don't give out your phone number and don't give out your address. You're safe as long as you keep it on the other side of the screen."
Here are some other suggestions for parents concerned about the safety of their children on the Internet:
- Parents should talk with children about the sort of things they may encounter online and rules for Internet usage, such as when they can go online and how much time they can spend. Young children should never go online without an adult present.
- Young people should understand that they must not give out personal information such as phone number, address, school you attend or even your last name.
- Young people should be encouraged to tell parents about any online conversation that makes them uncomfortable.
- Young people should never send pictures of themselves, telephone other users, or set up face-to-face meetings without talking to their parents first.
- Young people should be told that people on the Internet aren't always who they seem; that in chat rooms anyone can portray themselves as anyone they like.
- Parents should have veto power over log-on names. An inappropriate or suggestive log-on invites harassing e-mail.
- Parents should help children choose chat rooms where other young people predominate.
- Log your family's chat. Keep a record of chat sessions so they can be documented later.