• Some Simple Internet Safety Rules

    Loudoun County Public Schools is concerned about the safety of its students in and out of the classroom. This concern extends to what students are doing online. Parents should actively monitor their children’s use of the Internet. To help parents keep children safe on the Internet, LCPS offers the following safety tips that have been compiled from sources such as the Polly Klaas Foundation and the Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
    • Never allow children to give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number.
    • Never allow your child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone via the Internet.
    • Decide whether you want personal information such as age, personal interests, or photographs to be revealed. Posting pictures online is especially dangerous because images of children can be sent electronically by one predator to another who might live closer to the child. Once an image goes onto the Internet it is there forever in some form that can be accessed.
    • Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, threatening, or make you or your child uncomfortable. By replying you are verifying a valid e-mail address to the sender, and that information can be used to encourage a person who may send inappropriate messages or put you on even more e-mail lists.
    • If you or your children become aware of the transmission of child pornography, report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the Web site www.cybertipline.com. This site is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and has links to report every kind of crime.
    • Remember that people online may not be who they say they are.
    • Remember everything you read may not be true.
    • Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.
    • Stay away from chatrooms that get into subjects associated with sex or cults or groups that do potentially dangerous things. Be particularly suspicious of anyone who tries to turn you against your parents, guardians, teachers or friends.
    • Choose an e-mail or chatroom name that doesn’t let people know if you’re male or female. Make sure the name doesn’t mean something that may encourage others to bother you.
    Some students have started Web logs or blogs, an online journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs are typically updated using software that allows people with little or no technical background to update and maintain the blog.
    Tips for safe blogging include:
    • Avoid postings that could enable a stranger to locate you. That includes your last name, the name of your school or sports teams, the town you live in and where you hang out.
    • Check to see if your blogging service has a “friends” list that allows you to control who can visit your blog. If so, be sure to allow only people you know and trust. Be very careful before adding strangers to your list and be extremely careful about the information you post that can be accessed by people outside your friends list.
    • Avoid getting together with someone you “meet” through a blog.
    • Be very careful about photographs you put on your blog. It’s best to avoid photos that can make it easy for people to recognize you. It’s a very bad idea to post photos that are suggestive or sexual in nature. Before uploading a photo, ask how you would feel if that picture were seen by your parents, a college admissions counselor, a potential employer, a future boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse or, perhaps, your grandparents. What if you were to run for office someday? What you post on the Internet can be downloaded by others and can hang around forever.
    • Avoid postings that could embarrass you, your friends or family members now or later. Remember, what you post on your blog can be copied and stored and could come back to haunt you years later.
    • If you allow non-friends or strangers to post comments to your blog, check the comments regularly to make sure they're appropriate and, if not, remove them. Never allow messages that are mean, threatening or embarrassing to you or others. Never respond to such messages either. Just delete them and, if possible, block that person from visiting your blog.
    • Do not lie about your age when you sign up for a blog. Age limitations are there for a good reason. Claiming that you are older than you are could get you into trouble and put you at risk.
    For more information about blogging and Internet safety, visit BlogSafety.com and SafeTeens.com.
    The Center for Missing and Exploited Children suggests that parents know the following Internet terms:
    • BRB: Be right back
    • DQMOT: Don’t quote me on this
    • KWIM: Know what I mean?
    • LMIRL: Lets meet in real life
    • A/S/L?: Age/Sex/Location?
    • P911: My parents are coming
    • POAHF: Put on a happy face
    • SOTMG: Short of time, must go
    • TAFN: That’s all for now
    • WTGP: Want to go private?
    The following tips are important to remember when using instant messaging (IM):
    • Be sure you know who is receiving the IMs you send. Even if you do know the recipients, anything you type can be forwarded to other people. There is no way to “take back” something once you send it.
    • Be careful about using video or digital cameras and sending images of yourself during an IM session.
    • You don’t have to respond to any messages especially if they are rude, annoying or make you feel uncomfortable.