Internet Safety

Keeping Kids Safe

While the Internet is a great way to access a wide range of information and services from your home computer, it is important to remember that like any interaction between people, there is the risk of dangerous and/or criminal activity. By realizing risks exist and keeping lines of communication open with your children, you can minimize the likelihood that your child will be the victim of an Internet-related crime.

Before reading further, you should be aware that there are just a few incidences of Internet crime in which a child is the victim, yet these are highly publicized. This leads to the popular impression that these crimes are rampant on the Internet. Although the type of crime is very difficult to accurately measure, the actual chance of your child being the victim of a crime detailed below is most likely very low.

Risks On The Internet

Commonly held ideas about the amount of inappropriate material available on the Internet are often very exaggerated. Claims have been made that the exchange of pornographic images accounts for 83.5% of all Internet traffic. This statistic is very inflated. More reliable reports estimate traffic in pornographic images as fewer than 1% of all traffic.

In addition to pornographic material, sexually-explicit discussion and other content dealing with themes that are not suitable for children are available. While this material may be legal to provide for adults, the anonymity of the Internet can allow children to obtain it as well, even against the wishes and without the knowledge of the provider of the material.

As the Internet provides only a very limited amount of information on other users (such as a return e-mail address that can be hard to understand), it is very conducive to exploitation by those who wish to conceal their identity. This group includes child abusers. Anonymity is used harmlessly by man; for example, young persons on the Internet often do not disclose their age because they wish to appear older. In an extreme case, a criminal who wishes to prey on children can imitate a child to try and make friends.

What You Can Do

Don't let the Internet intimidate you. The Internet may be a new technology for communication, but it simply connects people. Apply the same skills you would use to protect your children from pornography and child abuse in the physical world to the electronic one.

Contrary to popular belief, pornographic images on the Internet must generally be sought out to be obtained. Your best defense against your child obtaining inappropriate material against your wishes is the same advice often given in gang, drug and violence prevention programs. Talk with your child on a regular basis about their activities and peer group. You should be aware of what your child is doing with his or her time on the Internet. The best way to accomplish this is to learn to use the computer together. (It doesn't matter whether the child is the teacher or the student.) If you encourage your child to share the information he or she has found with you, the Internet becomes a shared activity, and illicit use becomes difficult to conceal. Keep an open dialogue with your children.

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More Information

Call the Escondido Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit at 760-839-4425.