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Interacting Safely Online

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Web filtering and parental controls will keep inappropriate websites off your PC for the most part. But even legitimate sites that offer interactivity through email, chat rooms or instant messaging can create safety risks for kids (and adults). Here are some safety rules about interactive sites.

Stay with moderated chat rooms. Kids love to chat, and chat rooms often breed problems. Chat visitors can sometimes "lurk" in the room until they find a chatter with whom they want to chat. If adults are in chat rooms looking for young chatters, they can hide in the shadows watching the dialog for a vulnerable child. In a moderated chat room, a live, real-time moderator watches the conversation, banishes lurkers, and generally makes sure the chatting is appropriate. Whattablast.com offers a listing of moderated chat rooms for kids.

Never agree to face to face meetings alone. A face to face meeting with an online friend can be an OK experience for kids if they follow a few simple rules. First, never arrange an online meeting without an express approval of the visit. Second, parents should always accompany a child on such a visit. Third, visits should always be in a public place like a restaurant, a library, an amusement park or the like.

Never share passwords. Make sure that passwords are kept confidential, even with friends. If a person has your password, they can impersonate you online, and create all kinds of privacy violations.

Report problems quickly. If your child receives an inappropriate email or is solicited online in some way, have them report it to you promptly. You can notify the ISP of problems, and if there is something of a criminal nature, contact your local police department.

More on Family Internet Safety

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  6. Your Family and the Internet - Interacting Safely Online

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