17
Sep

Traveling on Business to Alicante, Spain

Getting around in a foreign country has always been a source of anxiety for me. In some places they will really take advantage of tourists. In some other places, you need to know your route and destination just to make sure you are not being lured away. Some places I have been to have some rough neighborhoods that make the worst cities in the States seem like safety zones. I was visiting Spain for the first time, and the driver for my taxi Alicante spoke English quite well and was very friendly and knowledgeable. I was actually able to relax every time I used their taxi service. It was not at all like some of the other places I have been to.

This is a vacation compared to some places I have been to. They have 5-star hotels in Alicante. Continue reading

29
Jun

Lorem Ipsum

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18
Jun

sexting: what parents need to know

These days, almost every teen has many ways to get online: via smartphones, tablets, and laptops, all of which can be used in private. It’s very easy for teens to create and share personal photos and videos of themselves without their parents knowing about it.

Most of the time, this is no big deal. By sharing something with a friend, your teen could have a memory to enjoy forever. But if what gets shared is a little too personal, your teen’s reputation could be harmed. Even if the image, video, or text was only meant for one person, once it’s been sent or posted, it’s out of your teen’s control. It could be seen by lots of people, and it could be impossible to erase from the Internet, even after your teen thinks it has been deleted.

Any sort of photo, video, or message that shows someone doing or saying something embarrassing or offensive can be damaging to a reputation. But this is especially true if there’s nudity, sex, or sexually suggestive content involved. This type of sharing, known as “sexting,” has the potential to haunt a teen for the rest of his or her life.

What Is Sexting?

Sexting (or “sex texting”) is the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or sexually suggestive images, messages, or video via a cellphone or the Internet.

Examples of sexting include sending:

  • nude or nearly nude photos or “selfies”
  • videos that show nudity, sex acts, or simulated sex
  • text messages that propose sex or refer to sex acts

Why Do Teens Sext?

Many girls sext as a joke, as a way of getting attention, or because of “pressure from guys.” Guys sometimes blame “pressure from friends.” But for some, it’s almost become normal behavior, a way of flirting, being seen as cool, or becoming popular. And teens get some reinforcement for that when lewd celebrity pictures and videos go mainstream and the consequences are greater fame and reality TV shows, not ruined careers or humiliation.

How Common Is Sexting?

It’s hard to know exactly how common sexting is among teens. Studies have found that about 1 out of every 5 to 10 teens — guys and girls — have sent sexually suggestive pictures. And about 1 out of every 3 to 8 teens have received them.

The studies focused mainly on pictures, not sexually suggestive comments, messages, or tweets. The percentage of teens involved in sexting goes up if written sexual content is included, but it’s not clear by how much. But one thing is clear: Sexting is relatively common among teens.

Consequences of Sexting

Teens should understand that messages, pictures, or videos sent via the Internet or smartphones are never truly private or anonymous. In seconds they can be out there for all of the world to see. If a compromising image of your teen goes public or gets sent to others, your teen could be at risk of humiliation, embarrassment, and public ridicule. Even worse, it could damage your teen’s self-image and possibly lead to depression and other mental health issues.

And don’t overlook the potential for legal consequences. In some states, a teen could face felony charges for texting explicit photos or even have to register as a sex offender.

Beyond that, questionable behavior online can haunt a college applicant or prospective employee years later. More and more colleges and employers check online profiles looking for indications of a candidate’s suitability — or giant red flags about bad judgment and immaturity.

What Parents Should Know

Teens’ decision-making skills, judgment, and ideas about privacy are still being formed. It can be hard for them to grasp the permanent consequences of their impulsive interactions. Just as they might not consider how smoking now can lead to long-term health problems, they can be reluctant to curb their “share everything” tendencies now for the sake of their reputations later.

One of the top responsibilities of parents is to teach their kids how to take responsibility for their own safety and their own actions. It’s important to send that message about the virtual world too. Even if a teen’s intentions are playful or harmless, if messages or pictures become public, the outcome can be anything but.

What to Say to Your Teen

It’s crucial to talk to your kids about how pictures, videos, emails, and text messages that seem temporary can permanently exist in cyberspace. One ill-considered picture sent to a crush’s phone easily can be forwarded to the recipient’s friends, posted online, or printed and distributed. Even an image sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend could lead to problems if someone else sees it or it’s distributed after a break-up. Intense peer pressure to take or send nude pictures will pale in comparison with the public humiliation that follows when the images land on Facebook or the cellphones of hundreds of other kids and even adults.

So how can you get through to your kids? The answer is to have open conversations about personal responsibility, personal boundaries, and how to resist peer pressure. Conversations like this should occur throughout kids’ lives — not just when problems arise.

Explain to your kids, early and often, that once an image or message is sent, it is no longer in their control and cannot be taken back. It can, and likely will, spread beyond the person who was meant to see it. Teach kids to follow the “WWGT” (“What would grandma think?”) rule. If grandma shouldn’t see it, they shouldn’t send it.

In the meantime, parents can make it clear that there will be consequences if their kids are caught sexting, such as taking away cellphones and computers or having limits to when and how they can use these devices.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014
18
Jun

question: how can parents help kids handle teasing

My young son has a cleft lip, and other kids have been making fun of him. How can I help him handle the teasing?
John

Adults can help by letting all kids know that teasing and making fun is never OK — that it is unkind, unfair, and hurtful.

Still, many kids will experience occasional teasing, and it can be difficult for them to handle. Kids with a cleft lip or other physical differences can be easy targets because the differences are so visible.

Kids who get teased may need help knowing how to respond. Encourage your son to tell you if he gets teased. Calmly listen and show him that you understand his feelings. Then talk together about some ways he can deal with it if it happens again.

For example, depending on the situation and your son’s age, you may want to teach him to:

  • Use a confident voice to tell the child who is making fun to stop.
  • Ignore or calmly walk away from the teasing.
  • Avoid acting too upset by teasing (getting a big reaction can satisfy the teasers and make them likely to try again).
  • Think of a short phrase or joke to say in response.
  • Walk away and find a friend to be near.
  • Tell a teacher or another adult.

Talk with your son about which of those ideas might work best for him and practice them by role-playing. Remind your son not to tease back, fight, or say something hurtful in return, which can only make the situation worse.

You also can help him become more resilient by offering your support and encouraging activities and friendships that develop his strengths and confidence. When you’re hearing about his day, be sure to focus on what he enjoyed and what went well, in addition to any difficult moments he faced.

Many schools now have programs to deal with teasing and bullying and promote positive relationships between kids. Ask the school staff (a teacher, guidance counselor, or principal) if your son’s school has such a program. If teasing tends to occur in specific settings (like at the bus stop or during recess), work with school personnel to make sure that an adult in charge responds to the situation when it happens.

If teasing becomes an ongoing issue or if you notice sudden changes that concern you (like your son doesn’t want to go to school, seems sad, or seems to have a hard time separating from you or family members), talk with a counselor or mental health professional for additional support.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2013
18
Jun

healthy habits for tv, video, games and internet

No doubt about it — TV, interactive video games, and the Internet can be excellent sources of education and entertainment for kids. But too much screen time can have unhealthy side effects.

That’s why it’s wise to monitor and limit the time your child spends playing video games, watching TV, and on the computer and the Internet.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under age 2 have no screen time, and that kids older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.

Healthy Habits for TV, Video Games, and the Internet

It’s also a good idea to make sure kids have a wide variety of free-time activities like reading, playing with friends, and sports, which can all play a vital part in helping them develop a healthy body and mind.

Here are some practical ways to make kids’ screen time more productive.

TV Time

  • Limit the number of TV-watching hours:
    • Stock the room in which you have your TV with plenty of other non-screen entertainment (books, kids’ magazines, toys, puzzles, board games, etc.) to encourage kids to do something other than watch the tube.
    • Keep TVs out of kids’ bedrooms.
    • Turn off the TV during meals.
    • Don’t allow your child to watch TV while doing homework.
    • Treat TV as a privilege that kids need to earn — not a right that they’re entitled to. Tell them that TV viewing is allowed only after chores and homework are completed.
  • Try a weekday ban. Schoolwork, sports activities, and job responsibilities make it tough to find extra family time during the week. Record weekday shows or save TV time for weekends, and you’ll have more family togetherness time to spend on meals, games, physical activity, and reading during the week.
  • Set a good example. Limit your own TV viewing.
  • Check the TV listings and program reviews. Look for programs your family can watch together (i.e., developmentally appropriate and nonviolent programs that reinforce your family’s values). Choose shows, says the AAP, that foster interest and learning in hobbies and education (reading, science, etc.).
  • Preview programs. Make sure you think they’re appropriate before your kids watch them.
  • Use the ratings. Age-group rating tools have been developed for some TV programs and usually appear in newspaper TV listings and onscreen during the first 15 seconds of some TV programs.
  • Use screening tools. Many new standard TV sets have internal V-chips (V stands for violence) that let you block TV programs and movies you don’t want your kids to see.
  • Come up with a family TV schedule. Come up with something the entire family agrees on. Then post the schedule in a visible household area (i.e., on the refrigerator) so that everyone knows which programs are OK to watch and when. And make sure to turn off the TV when the “scheduled” program is over instead of channel surfing for something else to watch.
  • Watch TV with your child. If you can’t sit through the whole program, at least watch the first few minutes to assess the tone and appropriateness, then check in throughout the show.
  • Talk to kids about what they see on TV and share your own beliefs and values. If something you don’t approve of appears on the screen, turn off the TV and use the opportunity to ask your child thought-provoking questions such as, “Do you think it was OK when those men got in that fight? What else could they have done? What would you have done?” Or, “What do you think about how those teenagers were acting at that party? Do you think what they were doing was wrong?” If certain people or characters are mistreated or discriminated against, talk about why it’s important to treat everyone fairly despite their differences. You can use TV to explain confusing situations and express your feelings about difficult topics (sex, love, drugs, alcohol, smoking, work, behavior, family life). Teach your kids to question and learn from what they see on TV.
  • Find out about other TV policies. Talk to other parents, your doctor, and your child’s teachers about their TV-watching policies and kid-friendly programs they’d recommend.
  • Offer fun alternatives to television. If your kids want to watch TV but you want them to turn it off, suggest alternatives like playing a board game, starting a game of hide and seek, playing outside, reading, etc. The possibilities for fun without the tube are endless — so turn off the TV and enjoy quality time with your kids.

Video and Interactive Computer Games

  • Look at the ratings. Video games do have ratings to indicate when they have violence, strong language, mature sexual themes, and other content that may be inappropriate for kids. The ratings, established for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, range from EC (meaning Early Childhood), which indicates that the game is appropriate for kids ages 3 and older, to AO (for Adults Only), which indicates that violent or graphic sexual content makes it appropriate only for adults.
  • Preview the games. Even with the ratings, it’s still important to preview the games — or even play them — before letting kids play. The game’s rating may not match what you feel is appropriate for your child.
  • Help kids get perspective on the games. Monitor how the games are affecting your kids. If they seem more aggressive after spending time playing a certain game, discuss the game and help them understand how the violence that’s portrayed is different from what occurs in the real world. That can help them identify less with the aggressive characters and reduce the negative effects that violent video games can have.

Internet Safety

  • Become computer literate. Learn how to block objectionable material.
  • Keep the computer in a common area. Keep it where you can watch and monitor your kids. Avoid putting a computer in a child’s bedroom.
  • Share an email account with younger children. That way, you can monitor who is sending them messages.
  • Teach your child about Internet safety. Discuss rules for your kids to follow while they’re using the Internet, such as never reveal personal information, including address, phone number, or school name or location.
  • Bookmark your child’s favorite sites. Your child will have easy access and be less likely to make a typo that could lead to inappropriate content.
  • Spend time online together. Teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
  • Monitor kids use of chat rooms. Be aware that posting messages to chat rooms reveals a child’s email address to others.
  • Find out about online protection elsewhere. Find out what, if any, online protection is offered at school, after-school centers, friends’ homes, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2014
18
Jun

What Is Cyberbullying?

Bullies and mean girls have been around forever, but technology now gives them a whole new platform for their actions. The old “sticks and stones” saying is no longer true — both real-world and online name-calling can have serious emotional consequences for our kids and teens.

It’s not always easy to know how and when to step in as a parent. For starters, most kids use technology differently than we do. They’re playing games online and sending texts on their phones at an early age, and most teens have devices that keep them constantly connected to the Internet. Many are logged on to Facebook or Tumblr and chatting or texting all day. Even sending email or leaving a voicemail can seem old-school to them. Their knowledge of the digital world can be intimidating to parents.

But staying involved in kids’ cyber world, just as in their real world, can help parents protect them from its dangers. As awareness of cyberbullying has grown, parents have learned more about how to deal with it. Here are some suggestions on what to do if this modern type of bullying has become part of your child’s life.

What Is Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, it occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyberstalking, a crime that can have legal consequences and involve jail time.

Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — for example, if your child shows you a text, tweet, or response to a status update on Facebook that is harsh, mean, or cruel. Other acts are less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or videos designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some kids report that a fake account, webpage, or online persona has been created with the sole intention to harass and bully.

Cyberbullying also can happen accidentally. The impersonal nature of text messages, IMs, and emails make it very hard to detect the sender’s tone — one person’s joke could be another’s hurtful insult. Nevertheless, a repeated pattern of emails, texts, and online posts is rarely accidental.

Because many kids are reluctant to report being bullied, even to their parents, it’s impossible to know just how many are affected. But recent studies about cyberbullying rates have found that about 1 in 4 teens have been the victims of cyberbullying, and about 1 in 6 admit to having cyberbullied someone. In some studies, more than half of the teens surveyed said that they’ve experienced abuse through social and digital media.

Effects of Cyberbullying

No longer limited to schoolyards or street corners, modern-day bullying can happen at home as well as at school — essentially 24 hours a day. Picked-on kids can feel like they’re getting blasted nonstop and that there is no escape. As long as kids have access to a phone, computer, or other device (including tablets), they are at risk.

Severe, long-term, or frequent cyberbullying can leave both victims and bullies at greater risk for anxiety, depression, and other stress-related disorders. In some rare but highly publicized cases, some kids have turned to suicide. Experts say that kids who are bullied — and the bullies themselves — are at a higher risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides.

The punishment for cyberbullies can include being suspended from school or kicked off of sports teams. Certain types of cyberbullying can be considered crimes.

Signs of Cyberbullying

Many kids and teens who are cyberbullied don’t want to tell a teacher or parent, often because they feel ashamed of the social stigma or fear that their computer privileges will be taken away at home.

Signs of cyberbullying vary, but may include:

  • being emotionally upset during or after using the Internet or the phone
  • being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
  • withdrawal from family members, friends, and activities
  • avoiding school or group gatherings
  • slipping grades and “acting out” in anger at home
  • changes in mood, behavior, sleep, or appetite
  • wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
  • being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
  • avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities

How Parents Can Help

If you discover that your child is being cyberbullied, offer comfort and support. Talking about any bullying experiences you had in your childhood might help your child feel less alone.

Let your child know that it’s not his or her fault, and that bullying says more about the bully than the victim. Praise your child for doing the right thing by talking to you about it. Remind your child that he or she isn’t alone — a lot of people get bullied at some point. Reassure your child that you will figure out what to do about it together.

Let someone at school (the principal, school nurse, or a counselor or teacher) know about the situation.Many schools, school districts, and after-school clubs have protocols for responding to cyberbullying; these vary by district and state. But before reporting the problem, let your child know that you plan to do so, so that you can work out a plan that makes you both feel comfortable.

Encourage your child not to respond to cyberbullying, because doing so just fuels the fire and makes the situation worse. But do keep the threatening messages, pictures, and texts, as these can be used as evidence with the bully’s parents, school, employer, or even the police. You may want to take, save, and print screenshots of these to have for the future.

Other measures to try:

  • Block the bully. Most devices have settings that allow you to electronically block emails, IMs, or texts from specific people.
  • Limit access to technology. Although it’s hurtful, many kids who are bullied can’t resist the temptation to check websites or phones to see if there are new messages. Keep the computer in a public place in the house (no laptops in children’s bedrooms, for example) and put limits on the use of cellphones and games. Some companies allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours. And most websites and smartphones include parental control options that give parents access to their kids’ messages and online life.
  • Know your kids’ online world. Ask to “friend” or “follow” your child on social media sites, but do not abuse this privilege by commenting or posting anything to your child’s profile. Check their postings and the sites kids visit, and be aware of how they spend their time online. Talk to them about the importance of privacy and why it’s a bad idea to share personal information online, even with friends. Write up cellphone and social media contracts that you are willing to enforce.
  • Learn about ways to keep your kids safe online. Encourage them to safeguard passwords and to never post their address or whereabouts when out and about.

If your son or daughter agrees, you may also arrange for mediation with a therapist or counselor at school who can work with your child and/or the bully.

When Your Child Is the Bully

Finding out that your kid is the one who is behaving badly can be upsetting and heartbreaking. It’s important to address the problem head on and not wait for it to go away.

Talk to your child firmly about his or her actions and explain the negative impact it has on others. Joking and teasing might seem harmless to one person, but it can be hurtful to another. Bullying in any form is unacceptable; there can be serious (and sometimes permanent) consequences at home, school, and in the community if it continues.

Remind your child that the use of cellphones and computers is a privilege. Sometimes it helps to restrict the use of these devices until behavior improves. If you feel your child should have a cellphone for safety reasons, make sure it is a phone that can be used only for emergencies. Set strict parental controls on all devices.

To get to the heart of the matter, talking to teachers, guidance counselors, and other school officials can help identify situations that lead a kid to bully others. If your child has trouble managing anger, talk to a therapist about helping your son or daughter learn to cope with anger, hurt, frustration, and other strong emotions in a healthy way. Professional counseling also can help improve kids’ confidence and social skills, which in turn can reduce the risk of bullying.

And don’t forget to set a good example yourself — model good online habits to help your kids understand the benefits and the dangers of life in the digital world.

Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014
18
Jun

teaching kids to be smart about social media

For kids and teens, social media is an essential part of their lives, much the way telephones were important to us at their age.

About 90% of teens have used some form of social media and 75% have a profile on a social networking site, experts say. More than half of all American teens visit social networking sites every day. These numbers are way up from just a few years ago, and there’s almost no chance of them ever coming down again.

There are plenty of good things about social media — but also many potential dangers and things that you want your kids and teens to avoid. They don’t always make the smartest choices when they post something to a site like Facebook or YouTube, and sometimes this can lead to problems.

So it’s important for parents to teach their kids how to use social media wisely.

The Good

Social media can help kids:

  • stay connected with friends and family
  • volunteer or get involved with a campaign, nonprofit, or charity
  • enhance their creativity through the sharing of ideas, music, and art
  • meet and interact with others who share similar interests

The Bad

The flipside is that social media can be a hub for things like cyberbullying and questionable activities. Without meaning to, kids can easily share more online than they should.

One study showed that 9 out of 10 teens post photos of themselves online or use their real names on their profiles; 8 out of 10 reveal their birthdates and interests; and 7 out of 10 post their school name and the town where they live. Actions like this can make kids easy targets for online predators and others who might want to cause them harm.

These statistics about teens highlight the dangers of social media:

  • 17% of teens say they’ve been contacted online by someone they didn’t know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable
  • 30% of teens say they’ve received online advertising that was inappropriate for their age
  • 39% of teens admitted to lying about their age to gain access to websites
  • Concerns and Consequences

    In addition to problems like cyberbullying and online predators, kids also can face the possibility of a physical encounter with the wrong person. Many newer apps automatically reveal the poster’s location when they’re used. This can tell anyone out there exactly where to find the person using the app.

    And photos, videos, and comments made online usually can’t be taken back once they’re posted. Even after a teen thinks something has been deleted, it can be impossible to completely erase it from the Internet.

    Posting an inappropriate photo can damage a kid’s reputation in ways that may cause problems years later — such as when a potential employer or college admissions officer does a background check. And if a kid sends a mean-spirited tweet as a joke, it could be very hurtful to someone else and even taken as a threat.

    Spending too much time on social media can be a downer, too. By seeing how many “friends” others have and viewing pictures of them having fun, kids may feel worse about themselves or feel they don’t measure up to their peers.

    What Parents Can Do

    It’s important to be aware of what your kids are doing online, but prying too much can alienate them and damage the trust you’ve built together. The key is to stay involved in a way that makes your kids understand that you respect their privacy but want to make sure they’re safe.

    Here are some helpful hints to share with connected kids:

    • Be nice. Mean behavior is just as unacceptable in the virtual world as it is in the real world. Make it clear that you expect your kids to treat others with respect and courtesy, and to never post hurtful or embarrassing messages about others. And ask them to always tell you about any harassing or bullying messages that others may post.
    • Think twice before hitting “enter.” Remind teens that what they post can be used against them. For example, letting the world know that you’re off on vacation or posting your home address gives would-be robbers a chance to strike. Teens also should avoid posting specific locations of parties or events, as well as phone numbers.
    • Follow the “WWGS?” (What Would Grandma Say?) rule. Teach kids that “once it’s out there, you can’t get it back.” They shouldn’t share anything on social media that they wouldn’t want their teachers, college admissions officers, future bosses — and yes, grandma — to see.
    • Use privacy settings. Privacy settings are important, and to highlight their importance, go through the settings together to make sure your kids understand each one. Also, explain that passwords are there to protect them against things like identity theft and should never be shared with anyone (even a boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend).
    • Don’t “friend” strangers. “If you don’t know them, don’t friend them.” This is a plain, simple — and safe — rule of thumb.
  • Make It Official

    So, how can you drive these messages home? One way is to make a “social media agreement” with your kids — a real contract they can sign. In it, they can agree to protect their own privacy, consider their reputation, and not give out personal information. Furthermore, they promise to never use technology to hurt anyone else (through bullying or gossip).

    In turn, parents agree to respect teens’ privacy while making an effort to be part of the social media world (this means you can “friend” and observe them, but don’t post embarrassing comments or rants about messy rooms).

    Parents also can help keep kids grounded in the real world by putting limits on media use. Keep computers in public areas in the house, avoid laptops and smartphones in bedrooms, and set some rules on the use of technology (such as no cellphones at the dinner table).

    And don’t forget: Setting a good example through your own virtual behavior can go a long way toward helping your kids use social media safely.

    Reviewed by: Larissa Hirsch, MD
    Date reviewed: August 2014
18
Jun

internet safety

The Internet can be a wonderful resource for kids. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and play interactive games. Kids who are old enough to swipe a screen can have access to the world.

But that access can also pose hazards. For example, an 8-year-old might do an online search for “Lego.” But with just one missed keystroke, the word “Legs” is entered instead, and the child may be directed to a slew of websites with a focus on legs — some of which may contain pornographic material.

That’s why it’s important to be aware of what your kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online.

As with any safety issue, it’s wise to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities.

Internet Safety Laws

A federal law, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), was created to help protect kids younger than 13 when engaged in online activities. It’s designed to keep anyone from getting a child’s personal information without a parent knowing about it and agreeing to it first.

COPPA requires websites to explain their privacy policies on the site and get parental consent before collecting or using a child’s personal information, such as a name, address, phone number, or Social Security number. The law also prohibits a site from requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a game or participate in a contest.

But even with this law, your kids’ best online protection is you. By talking to them about potential online dangers and monitoring their computer use, you’ll help them surf the Internet safely.

Online Protection Tools

Online tools are available that will let you control your kids’ access to adult material and help protect them from Internet predators. No option is going to guarantee that they’ll be kept away from 100% of the risks on the Internet. So it’s important to be aware of your kids’ computer activities and educate them about online risks.

Many Internet service providers (ISPs) provide parent-control options to block certain material from coming into a computer. You can also get software that helps block access to certain sites based on a “bad site” list that your ISP creates. Filtering programs can block sites from coming in and restrict personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity. Also, make sure your kids create a screen name to protect their real identity.

Getting Involved in Kids’ Online Activities

Aside from these tools, it’s wise to take an active role in protecting your kids from Internet predators and sexually explicit materials online. To do that:

  • Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material.
  • Keep the computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms, where you can watch and monitor its use. Monitor any time spend on smartphones or tablets.
  • Share an email or social media account with your child so you can monitor messages.
  • Bookmark kids’ favorite sites for easy access.
  • Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
  • Forbid your child from entering private forums; block them with safety features provided by your Internet service provider or with special filtering software. Be aware that posting messages to forums reveals a user’s email address to others.
  • Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
  • Find out what, if any, online protection is offered by your child’s school, after-school center, friends’ homes, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
  • Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange.
  • Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 if you’re aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet.

Many sites use “cookies,” devices that track specific information about the user, such as name, email address, and shopping preferences. Cookies can be disabled. Ask your Internet service provider for more information.

Basic Rules

Set up some guidelines for your kids to use while they’re online, such as:

  • Follow the rules you set, as well as those set by your Internet service provider.
  • Never post or trade personal photographs.
  • Never reveal personal information, such as address, phone number, or school name or location. Use only a screen name. Never agree to meet anyone from a chat room or social media site in person.
  • Never respond to a threatening email, message, post, or text.
  • Always tell a parent about any communication or conversation that was scary.
  • If your child has a new “friend,” insist on being “introduced” online to that friend.

A Word of Caution

Forums, or chat rooms, are virtual online rooms where chat sessions take place. They’re set up according to interest or subject, such as a favorite sport or TV show. Because people can communicate with each other alone or in a group, these places can be popular online destinations — especially for kids and teens.

But these sites can pose hazards for kids. Some kids have met “friends” in chat rooms who were interested in exploiting them. No one knows how common chat-room predators are, but pedophiles (adults who are sexually interested in children) are known to frequent chat rooms.

These predators sometimes prod their online acquaintances to exchange personal information, such as addresses and phone numbers, thus putting the kids they are chatting with — and their families — at risk.

Pedophiles often pose as teenagers in chat rooms. Because many kids have been told by parents not to give out their phone numbers, pedophiles may encourage kids to call them — and if they do, caller ID will instantly give the offenders the kids’ phone numbers.

Warning Signs

Warning signs of a child being targeted by an online predator include spending long hours online, especially at night, phone calls from people you don’t know, or unsolicited gifts arriving in the mail. If your child suddenly turns off the computer when you walk into the room, ask why and monitor computer time more closely. Withdrawal from family life and reluctance to discuss online activities are other signs to watch for.

Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received pornography via the Internet or has been the target of an online sex offender.

Taking an active role in your kids’ Internet activities will help ensure that they benefit from the wealth of valuable information it offers without being exposed to any potential dangers.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: January 2015
18
Jun

Internet Safety Tips for Kids and Teens

Internet Safety Tips for Kids and Teens

  1. Spend time having fun with your parents online and helping them understand technology!
  2. Never post your personal information, such as a cell phone number, home number, home address, or your location on any social networking site or through mobile apps like Snapchat or Instagram.
  3. Never meet in person with anyone you first “met” on the internet. If someone asks to meet you, tell your parents or guardian right away. Some people may not be who they say they are.
  4. Check with your parents before you post pictures of yourself or others online. Do not post inappropriate pictures of anyone.
  5. Never respond to mean or rude texts, messages, and e-mails. Delete any unwanted messages. You may need to delete friends who continuously bother you or post things that are not appropriate.
  6. NEVER share your password with anyone, including your best friend. The only people who should know your password are your parents or guardian.
  7. If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, don’t text it or post it online.
  8. Do not download or install software or anything on your computer or cell phone before checking with your parents or guardian.
  9. Use the privacy settings of social networking sites.
  10. If anything makes you feel uncomfortable online, while gaming or when using your cell phone, talk with your parents or guardian right away.

Source: Netwsmartz.org and safekids.com.

Resources for Information On Internet Safety for Kids

  • http://www.netsmartzkids.org
  • http://www.getnetwise.com
  • http://www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety
  • http://www.fbi.gov/fun-games/kids/kids-safety
  • http://www.justice.gov/usao/sd/docs/InternetSafetyTips5.5.11.pdf
  • https://www.aacc.edu/technology/file/GamingTips.pdf

Resources for Information On Internet Safety for Teens

  • www.NetSmartz.org/Teens or www.nsteens.org
  • www.safeteens.com
  • http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/internet_safety.html
  • http://teens.webmd.com/features/teen
  • https://www.aacc.edu/technology/file/GamingTips.pdf
18
Jun

7 Dangers of the Internet for Kids

The World Wide Web is the greatest invention since the printing press. Nothing else has so radically shaped culture, media, commerce, entertainment, and communication. But with these benefits come great dangers all parents should know about.

7 Dangers of the Internet for Kids

7 Internet Dangers

1. Pornography–Warping the minds of youth

Repeatedly viewing pornography, especially from a young age, can radically shape one’s sexual attitudes and beliefs. Frequent exposures to sexually explicit material is closely linked to more permissive attitudes about sex, such as having multiple sexual partners, “one night stands,” cynicism about the need for affection between sexual partners, casual sexual relations with friends, and even mimicking behaviors seen in pornography.

  • More than 1 in 8 web searches are for erotic content.
  • 79% of youth’s unwanted exposures to Internet porn take place in the home.
  • Before the age of 18, 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.

2. Sexting–The unsafe ‘safe sex’

Sexting is sending or receiving nude or partially nude photos or videos through the Internet or cell phones. When teens engage in this risky behavior, many things can go wrong. These images are easy to forward on to others. At times, these images can be considered “child pornography,” and some teens have already been given felony charges.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 teens who receive a sext share it with someone else.
  • 20% of teens have sent or posted a nude or semi-nude image of themselves.
  • Of those who have sent sexts, 76% of girls and 57% of guys sent it to get someone else to like them.

3. Cyberbullying–The mean way kids treat each other online

Bullying happens on both the playground and in the digital world. Hurtful words are exchanged. Rumors start easily and spread quickly. Profiles and e-mails are hacked. And these types of activities are common today:

  • 20% of teens say their peers are “mostly unkind” to each other on social networks.
  • 24% of teens and young adults say someone has written something about them online that wasn’t true.
  • 9% say someone has threatened to use electronic communication (Facebook, e-mail, text messages, etc.) to tell others private things about them as a form of blackmail.

4. Predators–Those seeking to ensnare our children

The Internet is a perfect forum to meet new people, but some with malicious intent can use it to “befriend” your child. Internet predators are expert manipulators, able to foster a relationship of dependence with a teenager. Most prey on a teen’s desire to be liked, their desire for romance, or their sexual curiosity. Often a predator “grooms” a child through flattery, sympathy, and by investing time in their online relationship. These can then turn into offline relationships or, in extreme cases, opportunities for kidnapping or abduction.

  • 76% of predators are 26 or older.
  • 47% of offenders are 20 years old than their victims.
  • 83% of victims who met their offender face-to-face willingly went somewhere with them.

5. Gaming–More risks of exposure to sexual media and interactions

While online and console games can be very fun, educational, and interactive, there are also hidden dangers. Much of the content of some games include sexual content, violence, and crude language. Plus, Internet-connected games enable kids to interact with strangers, some of which can be bad influences or mean your kids harm.

  • 82% of children say they are current gamers.
  • One-third of teen gamers (ages 15-17) report playing games with people they first met online.
  • 13% of underage teenagers were able to buy Mature-rated games between November 2010 and January 2011.

6. Social Networks–Redefining privacy

Social networks like Facebook are very popular online activities. But parents should be aware of the image their teens are projecting as well as the influences they are absorbing online.

  • Despite the 13-year-old minimum, over half of parents of 12-year-olds say their child has a Facebook account, and three-quarters of these helped their child create the account.
  • 40% of teens have seen pictures on social networks of their peers getting drunk, passed out, or using drugs, and half of these first saw these pictures when they were 13 or younger.
  • More than 11% of teens are “hyper-networkers,” spending more than three hours per school day on social network sites.

7. YouTube–’Broadcast yourself’ culture means anything goes

YouTube is the world’s largest video sharing website. But because anyone can upload anything to YouTube, often videos can break the Community Guidelines for YouTube, and even those that do not can still be full of sexual innuendo, provocative content, and foul language.

  • 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute (about 8 years of content uploaded every day).
  • Over 3 billion videos are viewed every day on YouTube.
  • Users upload the equivalent of 240,000 full length films every week.