In our wired world, kids are getting exposed to the Internet at an earlier age. However, despite its many benefits, a perfect storm has emerged for the online victimization of children. Kids have free access to pornography, and sexual predators have easy access to kids. Cyber-bullying and identity-theft have become more common. Law enforcement limitations and challenges abound, and naive kids are engaging in risky online behavior. Parents must serve as the first line of defense to protect kids, but they are often uninformed or ill-equipped to deal with these and other evolving threats. It is therefore wise for you to brush up on these threats and learn how to protect your young ones from these.
Rocky Delgado, an Information Technology professional who handles Internet Security Systems, and Jonathan Richie Yap, an Information Technology consultant involved with online social networking sites, give some of the dangers that confront Internet users today:
Virus. Kids can get a virus embedded in their computer, be it a conduit for a Trojan Horse, a staging area for a worm, or they may end up downloading unnecessary cookies and files. Improper content. There are numerous sites where a child can learn harmful things like how to make bombs, sites that encourage drug use, forums that discuss the best ways to commit suicide, and areas that foster hate crimes.
Predators. Kids may be subject to various online predators. Delgado says, “A child may be exposed to phishing attacks where unscrupulous persons can try to steal their or their parents’ personal information and identity.” Sexual predators, adults pretending to be teenagers, abound in cyberworld. They entice children to reveal personal information and eventually lure them to private encounters that can result to traumatic experiences for kids and teens. Yap warns, “Kids who end up in chatrooms may be lured to sex chats leading to a sex ‘eyeball’, prostitution, or even ‘sex for benefits’ arrangements.”
Cyber-bullying. The relative anonymity the Internet offers sometimes makes kids feel uninhibited and makes them prone to harmful and nasty acts. Kids may be sent unsolicited hate mail, or fall prey to posers who pretend to be them on the Internet. Cases where other people open accounts in social networking sites under other people’s names and then post false, misleading, rude, or derogatory information are becoming common.