Protecting children from cyberstalking

The introduction of the Internet for general commercial use opened the floodgates of opportunity for anyone who had an idea. Business opportunities grew exponentially, social networking sites opened the doors for people to create completely new lives outside the reality based world, and criminals seized the chance to prey on children from the comfort of their own home. Almost since the dawn of the Internet, parents have had to keep a watchful eye on their children to keep them from harm’s path.

There are several things that you can do to prevent your children from becoming victims of an online crime like harassment, stalking, or even sexual crimes. Most laws that are made to protect children from online crimes are geared toward sexually based offenses. The Department of Justice actually conducts sting operations to catch would be cyber-criminals who are soliciting minors over the Internet for the purposes of sex. It’s nice to know that agents of the government are working hard to remove such people from the population before they strike, but what can you do as a parent to prevent the one that slipped through the nets from attacking your child? As it turns out, a lot.

Easily the best thing to do would be to set ground rules that absolutely are not bendable for any reason whatsoever. If your kids are old enough to understand what a sex offender is, they are old enough to understand why they can’t go into certain chat rooms and message boards. Have a talk with your kids about what areas of the Internet are acceptable and which ones are not. At a younger age, kids may not understand why you won’t let them use the Internet, but they will understand eventually if you are patient and understanding in your explanation.

Another safeguard that you can put in place for your children is to monitor their emails. This is definitely a concern for teenagers who wish for privacy. As teens become adults, they often make privacy demands, which are on the surface very reasonable. Unfortunately for you as a parent, you have to get into certain aspects of their lives to make sure they aren’t doing anything dumb- like setting up meetings with strangers. Some software programs will allow you to access your kids’ emails, while some email programs (especially the Internet based ones) off POP3 access, so you can check their emails from another account in a remote location. You can also set Google Alerts for your children’s names, screen names, etc. to help you monitor their Internet activity.

Whatever countermeasures you take to help your child avoid becoming a victim of a cyberstalker, you are doing them a favor, because every little bit helps when it comes to protecting your children from the bad things in this world.

Have a great day!