PROTECTING YOUR CHILD FROM INTERNET PREDATORS

J. Grant Swank, Jr.

I visited a friend’s home for an evening. I wanted to check my email. I asked the 12-year-old daughter if I could check my email via her bedroom computer. She hesitated. I wondered immediately at her hesitation.

The bedroom was on the first floor down the hall from the living room and kitchen. I would check my email at her computer with the bedroom door open, of course. Then I would return to visit with the family. I considered my request harmless for the family has been friends of mine for many years.

Further, when I asked to check my email on that computer, she not only hesitated. She also went to her room, shut the door, and then after about 10 minutes, opened the door, reluctantly telling me that it was now okay for me to use her computer.

I thought about that incident when driving home. I wondered if the girl had deleted something from her computer. I wondered if she had cancelled out websites she had visited in hours previously. I still wondered why she appeared hesitant about me simply walking into her room to use the computer, without having to have an interim period by which she checked her computer for some minutes and then permitted me use of her computer.

I know that this young girl uses her computer frequently — with the bedroom door closed against her parents’ visual surveillance of what might be going on with the computer. I know this because her mother has informed my wife that this is fact. When my wife asked her friend if she, the mother, was suspicious of what her daughter might be up to on the computer, the mother shied away from the topic, not wanting to talk about it in-depth.

This young girl has been seduced in the past by a grown man. This has brought much frustration to the parents. Therefore, I wondered if the mother is in overload emotionally. Is it that she can’t stand to think that there’s another venue for her daughter to come upon danger? Is it that the parents simply can’t take any more talk, let alone possibilities, of her child being molested? It could be. It very well could be that for the mother and father are exceptionally caring parents, the mother being a stay-at-mom, the father being a social worker.

I still wonder about that evening when I asked to use the girl’s computer to check my email. I was standing in the living room when I made the request. She could have easily responded quickly by informing me that it was quite all right to walk down the hall into her room, check the internet and my email. Instead, there were various barriers she constructed before, after some minutes passed, she reluctantly opened the door to me to use her computer.

What can parents do to protect their children from Internet predators?

First, they can refuse to be in denial about present-day dangers on the Internet. I know one set of parents who simply won’t face up to the reality that there are dangers via the computer for their son. After all, they themselves don’t use the computer that much. They have trusted the boy down through his growing up years. Why shouldn’t all continue to go quite well? That’s not healthy. So refuse to be so naïve about today’s Internet dangers that you don’t own up to what can happen to endanger your child.

Second, place the computer where you, the parent, can see it at all times. Take the computer out of the child’s room. Take it out of the basement. Take it out of the family room. Put it near the kitchen where there’s all sorts of activity. Keep the computer where parental eyes can see it readily. Make certain that the computer is in plain sight for anyone using it in your home.

Third, install protective software, some as inexpensive as $40. Make certain that it is the latest state-of-the-art programming for if it’s not, the child can find a way around it. There is software which can warn you at your employment if there comes online material that is endangering your child, even via that child’s email address.

Fourth, develop an active, involved parenting relationship with your child. Talk with your son and daughter about Internet dangers, being explicit. Tell the child that you trust him and her. Ask the child if he or she knows of friends into Internet harmful connections; ask for specifics, then unravel those details to explain the harmful possibilities.

Fifth, beware that your child may behave concerning computer use when in your home because of the above variables being put in place; but that same child may misuse the computer and the Internet particularly at a friend’s house or the library or at other computer access venues. Therefore, you want to check out where your child goes for computer use. Don’t be blind to these open doors for danger. See to it that you are informed as to what your child is doing, where he or she goes, and what that youngster is engaging in for computer pastimes — at home and elsewhere.

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