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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

Online Predators

The Internet is not overrun with predators waiting behind every page to attack your child. But there are some. And one is all it takes. Fortunately, you can keep your child safe from online predators by following some simple, common-sense rules and precautions:
  • Tell your kids never to share personal information or photos with people they encounter online
  • Tell your kids never to reply to instant messages or emails from people they don't know
  • Tell your kids never to agree to meet anyone they meet online unless you come with them
  • Tell your kids to let you know if anything happens online that upsets them
  • Keep your family computer somewhere you can watch what your children are doing and where they're going
  • Know your child's online "friends," just as you want to know their real-world friends
  • Encourage your child to stay in well-moderated, carefully-run web environments - and tell them never to go "one-on-one" in private discussion areas
  • Make sure your child chooses "gender-neutral" screen names that don't reveal anything personal about him or her
  • Notice if your child is spending more time than usual on the computer, or appears to be hiding something from you
  • As we've said in our discussion of Illegal Activities, always know who your child is receiving packages from
What if your child is contacted?

Tell your child you want to hear about it immediately if anyone he or she encounters online does any of the following things:
  • Asks for photos, videos, or personal information
  • Sends obscene material
  • Invites your child to meet them
Then, if you review the contact and you believe you've encountered a real threat to your child - or a potential threat to any child - report it immediately to the The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's CyberTipline.

Be aware of how predators work

Like offline predators, online predators seduce kids by going where they hang out (for example, chat rooms and online forums); then, pretending to be "on their side," commiserating with their problems, offering friendly attention and gifts, and then gradually starting to talk about sexual matters or sharing sexually explicit images.

Young adolescents tend to be most vulnerable: they're often in the most need of attention, most rebellious, most confused about their identities, and most ready to take chances.

Your kids should know how Internet predators operate - and be aware that not everyone online is who they say they are. Many children are far more sophisticated about the Internet than their older siblings were even five ago. They'll already have heard this message. But not every kid is equally prepared. And, as we all know, even adults can be tricked by a professional scam artist with enough skill and motivation. Just because kids are comfortable on the Internet doesn't mean they're immune!

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