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10/29/2007 12:00:00 AM
Cyber Safety

Cyber Safety
Technology offers incredible opportunities for learning and entertainment.  Internet access and television programming can enrich our lives by delivering information about the world we live in.  Glimpses of various cultures and lifestyles are literally at our fingertips through our computers, tablets, and mobile devices.
 
However, for all we obtain from the Internet and television, there are some dark and dangerous off-ramps, especially for children.  Without proper supervision, children can easily be exposed to inappropriate material and messages, be exploited by sexual predators, and become victims to deceitful con artists.  We want to help keep children safe.
 
To report suspected cases of Internet crime, call 1-800-256-4506.
 
Net Tips
Parents should establish ground-rules for accessing the Internet. Your technical capabilities and lack of time may limit your involvement, but you can shape web surfing into a family activity.
 
Use a common sense approach to family Internet use: 
  • Place the computer in a central area of the house such as the family room, den, or kitchen.
  • Set up a content filter in your Internet browser or download parental control software to prevent your child from accessing inappropriate sites.
  • Establish specific times when access to the Internet is permitted and keep that schedule.
  • Confirm that your child's school has adopted an “acceptable use policy” for the Internet. Use this policy as a tool to establish guidelines at home.
  • Limit the length of access time. This will encourage your child to go directly to the information required, rather than aimlessly surfing the Internet.
  • Explain to your children that many sites on the Internet are not appropriate for children or young adults, and they are expected to stay away from them.
  • Make it clear to your child you are aware that there is pornographic material on the Internet, and that looking at such material is forbidden.
  • Explain that if a site's address has adult language in it, the site is not to be visited.
  • If the child has access to a credit card, instruct the child never to give it out over the Internet.
  • Instruct your child to talk to you if he or she ever finds  anything on the Internet that makes them feel uncomfortable. 
  • Encourage communication with your children. Ask about their Internet experiences and what they have learned.
Red Flags
  • Secretive behavior on the computer. 
  • You feel unwelcome at an online session.
  • Unexplained loss of capacity on the computer’s hard-drive.  (It may be crowded with pornographic files, which are typically very large).
  • A sudden new friend you don’t know.
  • Excessive time on the Internet.
  • Hidden flash drives that may be used for storage of inappropriate or illegal files.
Blocking & Filtering Tools
Hundreds of technological hardware and software tools are available to help empower families to choose what material is appropriate for their children.  These tools are specifically designed to promote child safety. With some programs, parents have the option of customizing the filtering device so that it reflects their family’s values. 

However, parents need to be aware that blocking and filtering tools should not be used as substitutes for instituting Internet ground rules.  Remember, even the best technology cannot protect your child from all the dangers in cyberspace.
 
Understanding the TV Ratings & the V-Chip
With thousands of hours of programming available in our homes each day, it’s getting very hard for parents to monitor what their children are watching on TV.

TV ratings and the V-Chip can help parents navigate their children’s way through the vast world of television.  TV ratings can help parents figure out which programs are inappropriate for certain ages or unsuitable because of sex, violence, or adult language.  The V-Chip can help parents “screen out” the programs they don’t want their children to watch.  The V-Chip is already built into new TV sets--parents who want to use it just have to turn it on when they set up their new TV. 
 
There’s a lot of help out there for parents who want to protect their children from harmful information.  Contact your local cable company for other ways to block out inappropriate programming.  Also, check your local television listings and watch for these symbols at the beginning of programs:
 
TV-Y All Children TV-PG Parental Guidance Suggested
TV-Y7 Directed to Older Children TV-14 Parents Strongly Cautioned
TV-Y7FV Directed to Older Children Fantasy Violence TV- MA Mature Audiences Only
TV-G General Audience

Contact the Kaiser Family Foundation at 1-800-656-4533 for a copy of “A Parent’s Guide to the TV Ratings and V-Chip” (publication #1491), or visit www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/a-parent-s-guide-to-tv-ratings-and-the-v-chip.pdf.
 


     

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