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May 2006

Are Your Children Safe on the Internet – Part II

I have received considerable feedback from readers on my April WECN MySpace.com article. Parents were very surprised to learn this site and similar sites exist and asked how they can determine where their children have been surfing on the web and for safety tips for their children.

First, as an update, MySpace.com’s owner, News Corp., is responding to criticism by launching a multimillion-dollar public service advertising campaign. According to the Wall Street Journal, the print and television spots will promote online safety and advice featuring the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website, cybertipline.com.

For Parents: How can you track your child’s web surfing? In Netscape, you should go to “Go” on your toolbar and then drop down to and click on “History.” Netscape will then display the history of where users have been. However, be aware prior users could change some of your computer’s settings to limit the amount of history that is displayed. They could do this by going to “Edit” on the toolbar, clicking on “Preferences,” and then under “Navigator” clicking on “History.”

In Internet Explorer, go to “View” on your toolbar and then curse down to “Explorer Bar” and then “History.” To regulate the number of days of history displayed, go to “Tools” on your toolbar, then “Internet Options,” and then “History.”

For Kids: BlogSafety.com also offers the following important safety tips for kids:

  • Be as anonymous as possible. Avoid postings that could enable a stranger to locate you. That includes your last name, the name of your school, sports teams, the towns you live in, and where you hang out.
  • Protect your info. Check to see if your service has a "friends" list that allows you to control who can visit your profile or blog. If so, allow only people you really know and trust. If you don't use privacy preferences, anyone can see your info, including people with bad intentions.
  • Avoid in-person meetings. Don't get together with someone you "meet" through a blog unless you are certain of his or her actual identity. Although it's still not risk-free, if you do meet the person, arrange the meeting in a public place and bring some friends along.
  • Photos. Think before posting. What's uploaded to the Net can be downloaded by anyone and passed around or posted online pretty much forever. Avoid posting photos that allow people to identify you (for example, when they're searching for your high school), especially sexually suggestive images. Before uploading a photo, think about how you'd feel if it were seen by a parent/grandparent, college admissions counselor, or future employer.
  • Check comments regularly. If you allow them on your profile or blog, check them often. Don't respond to mean or embarrassing comments. Delete them and, if possible, block offensive people from commenting further.
  • Be honest about your age. Membership rules are there to protect people. If you are too young to sign up, do not attempt to lie about your age. Talk with your parents about alternative sites that may be appropriate for you.

I expect this won’t be the last time I write about this important topic.

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