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Internet Safety for Teens

Whatever your age, the Internet is a great place to hang out. It’s not only fun, but it lets you keep in touch with friends and family and provides an enormous amount of information. There are lots of great educational sites as well as places to keep up with your favorite hobbies, music, sports, and much more. If you’re a teen, we probably don’t need to sell you on the benefits of the Internet. Many of you know far more than your parents or even teachers about the wonders of cyberspace. If you’re a parent, talk to your children about “the Net” and — if you need to learn more — see if they can help you. Either way, it’s important for teens and parents to share knowledge. You have something to learn from each other — if not about the Internet, then about life in general, how to make good decisions, and how to look at information critically.

Cyberspace is like a big city. There are libraries, universities, museums, places to have fun, and plenty of opportunities to meet wonderful people from all walks of life. But, like any community, there are also some people and areas that you ought to avoid and others that you should approach only with caution.

By knowing the dangers and how to avoid them, you can take advantage of all the positive aspects of the Internet while avoiding most of its pitfalls.

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What Parents Can Do

Parents, please talk to your adolescents and teens about what information is not okay to share online. Inappropriate personal information may include photos, full names and addresses, phone numbers and school name. It may also include less obvious things, such as the name of their school team or the name of the mall near their house. Help your kids thinkteenint about the implications of forgoing privacy and broadcasting their innermost thoughts.

Some parents' knee-jerk reaction to concerns about Internet safety is to take away access to the home computer.  However, there are many other computers available to your teen.  Consider keeping the computer at home and staying engaged with your teen there.

Familiarize yourself with the programs your child is using so that you can visit their MySpace page or other profiles.  You can learn a lot about your child, their safety practices, and their social circles by viewing their online activity.  Stay involved with your teens and ask them to show you what Web sites they're using, and how.

Parents Please Share These Safety Tips with Your Teen

  • Never give out personal or identifying information such as name, home address, school name, or telephone number in a public message such as at a chat room or on bulletin boards. Never send a person a picture of you without first checking with your parent or guardian.
     
  • Be sure that you are dealing with someone that you and your parents know and trust before giving out any personal information about yourself via E-mail.
     
  • Never put personal information or interests in your Instant Messaging profile. This includes posting your picture as well. It can be copied from the computer screen and saved by anyone.
     
  • Keep your passwords private, even from your best friend! Your online service will never ask for them, so neither should anyone else.
     
  • If a person writes something that is mean or makes your feel uncomfortable, don’t respond. Log off and tell your parents. Never respond to these types of messages. When in doubt—always ask your parents for help. Just log-off if you’re not sure -- you can always go back on later.
     
  • Be careful when someone offers you something for nothing, such as gifts and money. Be very careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
     
  • Never arrange a face-to-face meeting without telling your parent or guardian. If your parent or guardian agrees to the meeting, make sure that you meet in a public place and have a parent or guardian with you as it is potentially dangerous for this meeting to take placeteeninternet unsupervised.
     
  • Remember that nothing you write on the web is completely private, including email… so be careful and think about what you type and who you tell.
     
  • Not everyone is as nice, cute and funny as they may sound online. Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself. Thus, someone indicating that "she" is a "12-year-old-girl" could in reality be an older adult.
     
  • Consider adding only friends you know and trust to your ‘buddy list’.
     
  • Remind your parents to keep your computer properly protected by installing up-to-date security patches, current anti-virus software and a firewall to protect it from intrusions (hackers).
     
  • Always delete unknown email attachments without opening them. They can contain destructive viruses.
     
  • Always virus scan all files that are downloaded to your computer for viruses, even those from known persons.
     
  • If you become aware of the sharing, use or viewing of child pornography online immediately report this to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
     
  • If someone harasses you online, says anything inappropriate, or does anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, contact your Internet service provider.
     
  • Know that there are rules many Internet Service Providers (ISP) have about online behavior. If you disobey an ISP's rules, your ISP may penalize you by disabling your account, and sometimes every account in a household, either temporarily or permanently.
     
  • Consider volunteering at your local library, school, or Boys & Girls Club to help younger children online. Many schools and nonprofit organizations are in need of people to help set up their computers and Internet capabilities.

 

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