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LCPS INTERNET SAFETY
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.
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 uncomfortableChildren should not complete a profile for a service provider and children's screen names should be nondescript so as not to identify that the user is a child.
Teach yourself about the Web. Many public libraries and community centers offer information sessions that cover logging on to the Web, searching for information, and what sorts of places you can visit online (web sites, chat rooms, email).
Tell your child to NEVER EVER reveal their name, address, phone number or any other personal information to ANYONE online. Once you give out this information, it is impossible to retract.
Get to know the communication tools that your child may use. Besides surfing the Web, a good deal of a child's time online may be spent communicating and interacting with others. With the establishment of family guidelines, your child can have a safe and fun time participating in this new Internet community.
Talk to children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it's not their fault if they see something upsetting. Remind children to tell a trusted adult if they see something that bothers them online.
Place your family computer in the most public area of your home - the living room, kitchen, or wherever it's easiest for you to monitor their computer use and activities.
Communicate regularly (not just once) with your child about WHAT they do online and WHO they talk to online. If you have actually met the friends they are talking to in person, you'll know it is OK for them to chat with them online. Create a "Family Pledge for Online Safety" that clearly states what your children are and are not allowed to do online. Involve your children in the creation of the pledge, both as an opportunity for you to talk about the issues that will arise, and as a way to get their input and interest in the subjects. We're more likely to follow rules of our own making than those imposed upon us.
Choose your child's screen name, email address or instant message name wisely - don't' reveal ages, sex, or hobbies.
Web sites for children are not permitted to request personal information without a parent's permission. Talk to children about what personal information is and why you should never give it to people online.
If children use chat or E-mail, talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they first "met" online.
Familiarize yourself with parental control software, and check out the control features of your online service or ISP. Some programs allow you to filter specific sites, a group of sites that the software deems inappropriate, or sites with inappropriate keywords in them. However, nothing is foolproof; new sites are created all the time that may not be caught by the programs. Having a filter program is not a substitute for supervising your child's online activities. Many families find that adding blocking and filtering programs to their regular supervision gives them additional peace of mind.
We strongly recommend that you actively monitor your children while they participate in online chats (more so than any other online activity).
Know who children are exchanging E-mail with, and only let them use chat areas when you can supervise.
If your child receives inappropriate messages or material, or is being "spammed" (receiving unsolicited messages from a person or organization), there are a few steps you can take to deal with the matter. First, let your child know that he/she is not to blame. (You don't want them to be afraid to tell you the next time it happens!) Second, do not respond to the message. (You don't want whoever sent the email to know that it reached an actual person.) Instead, try to track down the company or ISP from which the message originated, and report the inappropriate correspondence.
If your child receives an email message from an unfamiliar address, they shouldn't read it and should tell you about it. If it's something inappropriate and unsolicited, request of the message's source that they delete your child's email address from their database. If this becomes an ongoing problem, complain to your Internet service provider.
Use technology to help you protect your child. Monitoring software gives you the ability to review your child's Internet usage. Even if you don't look at each and every email or instant message they send, you'll have a good idea if they are making smart choices online.
Message boards generally list the username of the person who posts a message. Therefore, we encourage you to create an alias for your child so that their true name is not visible on any posted message. This helps to prevent unwanted email replies from random people who're interested in responding directly to posts by your children.
Sources:or Yahoo KidsInformation copied with permission from Katie Neville TRT Lincoln/Hamilton ES