Internet Safety

This document is intended to provide consumers with information regarding a specific topic. It is not meant to provide comprehensive information. For further questions, please contact the Consumer Affairs Division at (617) 635-3834.

Parents: Make the Internet Safer for Your Child

By the start of this decade, about 24 million children between the ages of 10 and 17 were using the Internet regularly, and that figure will no doubt keep climbing. The growth of the Internet presents some special child safety issues for parents. There is increased need for parents to educate themselves about the serious potential dangers to their children from going online. Consider that surveys have shown that, while online:

  • One child in seventeen has felt threatened or harassed.

  • One child in five has received a sexual solicitation.

  • One child in four has been exposed to unwanted sexual material.

Most never tell parents about such encounters. Children are also exposed to other risks from online use. Some are using the Internet as a source on how to find illegal drugs, instructions for making explosives, a place to view pornography, or other improper activities. Parents simply must monitor the Internet usage of their children carefully. Here are some tips for parents to help make the Internet safer for your child.

Internet Safety Tips

  • It's a good idea to keep the computer in a common area of the house. That way, you can look over your child's shoulder and check to see what web pages he or she is viewing. Do this often!

  • Use your computer's History button. It will tell you which Web sites your child has visited recently. 

  • Check the little boxes on the bottom of the computer screen. Have your child open them...they may be hiding things your child would rather you did not see. 

  • Make sure your child knows not to send out personal info such as names, addresses, phone numbers, or identifying information such as the name of his or her school. 

  • Tell your child never to send a picture of him or herself without your permission. 

  • Tell your child never to open email from someone unless it's from someone they know well. 

  • Your child should tell you immediately if they encounter someone or something on the web that makes them feel uncomfortable. Report this to your Internet Service Provider, or, in the case of a crime, to the police. 

  • Use parental controls provided by your Internet Service Provider to block out access to inappropriate Web sites. 

  • Don't allow your child to fill out a "profile", i.e. a description of the user of the on-line screen name. These can be viewed by predators using the Web to search for young victims. 

  • Talk to your children about what they do online. Remind them that people online aren't always what they seem to be, and things they read online may not be true. 

  • Children are not just potential victims. They must also be aware that they can be held responsible for doing things that hurt other people. Children must be made to realize that anything they send out or post on the Internet can be viewed by people around the world. They should not post anything that could be harmful to someone else. In some cases, children have been charged with committing crimes online. In particular, threats of any kind should never be made. 

  • Also, parents should also be aware of www.getnetwise.org. It provides updated info for parents on Internet safety issues. It can also provide parents with information on how to obtain safety software and other products that can filter out unwanted online material.