Marlborough, MA - If your child is not "online" already, he or she may soon be joining the millions of children who are using the Internet. Whether using the Internet at home or school, the online world offers children experiences that can be both educational and rewarding, but sometimes pose a risk. In an effort to help parents protect their children online, Better Business Bureau offers tips to avoid the most prevalent risks that children may encounter.
The Internet poses new challenges for parents and caregivers because, unlike television or radio, the Internet is interactive. Your child can interact with anyone online from home, school or elsewhere. The Internet allows any user, anywhere, to post information, including materials that are inaccurate, misleading and inappropriate for children. It also enables anyone to collect personal information from your child.
"As a parent, it can be difficult to closely supervise children as they roam across websites where danger might lurk," said Paula Fleming, vice president of the local BBB. "However, children need to understand the rules and risks of cyberspace."
Here is a list of the most prevalent risks that children may encounter online:
Bullying and harassment - This is most likely to occur through social networking sites or through email or text messages. It's important to listen to your children and encourage them to discuss their fears and feelings about such incidents. The online safety website SafeKids.com has a page of resources to help you deal with cyberbullying.
Reputation-harming online posts - Children may not understand that "online is forever." Posts can haunt them at some point in the future and may be saved by someone, even after it has been deleted. Be sure your kids understand this, especially as it applies to photographs. Take the time to use a search engine to check up on what has been posted by or about your children.
Phishing attempts and identity theft - Help your children understand that emails requesting passwords and usernames may be fake, even though they look legitimate. They should never click on links in such emails. Explain to them that passwords should be shared with no one except you, and make sure your devices' operating systems and security software are kept up-to-date.
Inappropriate content - Children can easily stumble upon material that is sexual, violent or illustrates illegal activity. SafeKids.com also has resources for parents who discover that their children have been viewing pornography online.
Online stalkers/predators - Though such incidents make newspaper headlines, the risk of a child or teen being harmed by someone they met online is considered to be low. Nevertheless, common-sense rules always apply. Any communication your child has with an unknown person online that veers into subjects like sex or physical details should be ended at once and reported to you. Call your local police department if you suspect your child is being contacted for sexual reasons.
Parents should also review privacy protection rules with their children. Teach your children that they should never give out personal information (including their name, home address, telephone number, age, race, school name or location, or friends' names) or use a credit card online without your permission. Look into software or online services that filter out offensive materials and sites. Many Internet Service Providers and commercial online services offer site blocking, restrictions on incoming e-mail, and children's accounts that access specific services.
For more information you can trust, visit bbb.org/boston.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2013, consumers turned to BBB 131 million times for Business Reviews on more than 6.5 million businesses, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Mexico and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.