Bloodshot eyes and purple bruises are all that remain of the horrific torture a teenager faced during a week of sexual abuse and rape at the hands of a Long Island couple she met over the Internet. It is extremely important to teach your children how to be safe while on the Internet. Con artists and pedophiles can sound believable on the Internet, but all too often, children can get in over their heads with people they don't know. Tell your children:
* To let you know immediately if they find something scary or threatening on the Internet.
* Never give out their name, address, telephone number, password, school name, parents' names or any other personal information.
* Never agree to meet face-to-face with someone they have met online.
* Never respond to messages which contain bad words or seem scary or weird.
* Never enter an area that charges for services without first checking with a parent or guardian
* Never send a picture of himself or herself to anyone without a parent's permission.
If your child receives threatening email or pornographic material, save the offensive material and contact that user's Internet service provider and your local law enforcement agency. Also, make sure the Internet access at your children's school is properly monitored by adults. Know your children's friends and their parents, and talk to the other parents about the rules they have established regarding Internet use, including whether or not they monitor the children online.
Your child may be receiving inappropriate emails and be involved in dangerous chat rooms. BE ALERT! There are many potential warning signs to watch for:
* If your child begins to spend unusually long periods of time on the Internet.
* If the computer repeatedly goes dark or the screen saver appears when you enter the room as though your child is hiding something.
* If your child uses a large number of disks to retrieve material from an online service, or if you find disks hidden in strange places.
* If your child seems reluctant to discuss messages he or she is receiving.
The Internet is a wonderful world for discovery. Just take time to exercise proper care to make Internet experiences safe for yourself and your family. If you are interested in obtaining more information on Internet Safety for Children, please call my district office at 844-0653 and I would be happy to provide you with a brochure.