Reducing Online Risks
As a parent, you can reduce the chances that a sex offender will reach your children by talking with them about their Internet activities, setting rules for their Internet use, and posting rules near their computer. U.S. Postal Inspectors recommend you follow these guidelines:
Online Safety Tips
- Familiarize yourself with social networking, file-sharing, and online communication sites used by your children (e.g., instant messaging, text messaging, and chat rooms).
- Place your children’s computer in an area where you can supervise online activity. Find out what computers your children use away from home (e.g., at school, a friend’s home, the library) and make sure they’re supervised at those locations as well.
- Ensure your children use child-friendly search engines, or use filters on other search engines.
- Know who communicates with your child online. Sit with your child at the computer and have him or her identify each person they communicate with, including those on buddy lists and e-mail accounts. Monitor chat room activities.
- Set up Internet accounts and primary screen names in your name, not your children’s, and retain controlling passwords. Ensure that any screen names they use won’t identify them as children.
- Use filtering or monitoring software for all of your home computers. Good products list accepted sites and give children access only to pre-approved sites.
- Ask your children to check with you before posting photos of themselves or their friends. Photos may contain information that reveals their home, school, or clubs and teams they belong to, and could even put their friends at risk.
- If someone unfamiliar contacts your child online tell them not to respond, but encourage them to tell you about it. Your children need to know they can talk to you without repercussion. Children may do or see things online that they shouldn’t, but don’t want to tell anyone because they’re afraid of losing Internet privileges.
Ensure your children understand these principles to stay safe on the Internet:
- Online communications are for “real-life” friends and family members—period.
- Personal information such as an address, phone number, school name, information about friends, or e-mail addresses should never be given to anyone online.
- Once your child posts something online, anyone can see it—including people who can use the information to hurt them.
- Passwords are private. They’re only for you and your children.
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