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Press Release: October 8th, 2010 NCPC Article 3/5

For Immediate Release: Keeping Your Family Safe on the Internet during Crime Prevention Month and All Year Long

Amite, LA – The Internet has become a wonderful tool for all of us to use when searching for information, staying in touch with family and friends, for entertainment purposes, as well as homework and educational uses. The Internet however can also be a very dangerous place for children to explore on their own, without rules, and without adult supervision. As parents or caregivers, it is your responsibility to educate yourself about the Internet and communicate its potential dangers to your child. In most cases, our children and youth know more about the Internet than we do – so your knowledge of it is important.

Far too often we hear horror stories about a child befriending a stranger online, who turns out to be a sexual predator or worse and then the terrible aftermath of an in person encounter with that predator. Children, as well as adults are abducted and even murdered in some cases. Another unfortunate occurrence related to the internet is identity theft and fraud. Identity theft can happen to anyone - so again your knowledge of the Internet is important not only to protect your children but also yourselves.

The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) says that the single most important approach to protecting your child on the Internet is adult supervision and communication of safety tips and strategies. There are parental control and blocking software’s available to assist you in keeping them safe, but none work as well as you being involved in their Internet usage. While you cannot always control what they see and who tries to contact them on the online if you will talk to your children about safety on the Internet, you will be providing them with the necessary skills to make educated decisions while in and outside of the home.

In addition to educating yourself about Internet safety and sharing that information with your family there are a few simple practices that you can put in to place to assist you in your efforts. The NCPC suggests that you make it a family affair by agreeing on a list of rules and posting it by the computer. The rules should cover the amount of time and the time periods allowed on the computer and where and where not they may visit while surfing the web. You should also keep the lines of communication open, and never blame them for an online incident. If a child tells you about an upsetting event, your reaction will affect how much they may share with you in the future. It is recommended that you keep the computer in a common area of your home where children can be monitored while online. It is best to tell your child to not accept friend requests from people they do not know when on social sites. Be sure to ask questions about the people they meet or talk to online and the sites they have visited- again keeping the lines of communication open and sticking to the agreed upon rules your family has set.

It is okay for your children to meet other children online in protected forums, however, you should explain to your child that the person may not be who they say that they are. Your child should also understand that it is never okay to plan to meet anyone in person that they have met online in any situation. The only instance where that may be okay is if it is a student from another school and you have spoken to that child’s parents, will be accompanying the child to the visit, and it is in a public place. You or your child should never give out personal information online, such as real names, addresses, cell phone numbers, where they may be located at a particular point in time, and never that you are out of town and no one is home.

Your child should never use his or her real name while online as well or give out any identifying information. Pictures, letters, texts, and cell phone calls should never be exchanged with anyone met online. As a parent or caregiver you should be monitoring any and all communications and none should take place without your approval. Let your child know that if they receive an email or any kind of communication online including chat rooms, message boards, or even on their cell phone that makes them uncomfortable that they should let you know immediately. Any inappropriate material should be reported to your local Sheriff’s Department or Police Department. Most law enforcement agencies have an Internet Crime Division and or they work in partnership with an agency that does. We are fortunate in Tangipahoa Parish our Sheriff’s Office does offer that service- so be sure to use it to report any suspicious online activity.

The NCPC also suggests that when your child asks to check out a new website, do so with them. You may also want to consider a child-safe filter, search engine, blocking or rating system. Ask your Internet provider if they have parental controls, so that you can limit their accidental exposure to questionable websites. You should also make sure that if your child wants to enter a contest online, register for a “free” gift, open a link from a window that says they have “won” a prize, or to open an account online that they must have your permission first. This will give you the opportunity to talk to them about “free” doesn’t always mean free and that there are people and businesses online that will try to trick you to get your personal information or hack your computer. Adults this is one of the ways identity theft takes place!

Downloading information from the internet is also something that should need to have your permission. Again this is another opportunity to discuss with your child that not everything on the Internet is free. Let them know that it is illegal to download certain types of information, entertainment, and music. It is also important that when a student is using the web for homework that they understand that they cannot just copy information from someone else’s work. The researched information must be re-written or paraphrased except in the instances where the work is available to be used, however, students must always cite the source, author, and location of information used in the homework.

Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa hopes that this information will keep you and your family happily and safely surfing the web! The Internet is truly a great resource for all who use it wisely and responsibly. Educating yourself and your family about the dangers of the web will only help your child to make smart choices on and off the computer. Education will also help you as a parent to feel more comfortable about them using the Internet.

Internet crimes and suspicious activities online should be reported to local law enforcement. The NCPC lists these additional resources to report cyber crimes; The Cyber Tipline-National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, www.missingkids.org , the Federal Trade Commission for Consumer Fraud, www.ftc.gov , the U.S. Department of Justice, www.usdoj.gov/criminal/cybercrime/reporting.htm , and to report porn spam contact your local U.S. Attorney’s Office and complain to your internet provider. To report any crime anonymously, call 1-800-554-5245 (JAIL). You will never be asked for your name and may be eligible for a cash reward from Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa or visit our website www.tangicrimestoppers.com .

Article information from the NCPC and a NewsUSA article on www.ncpc.org