Criminals today are breaking into their victims' homes, not via the telephone or by a knock on the door, but through computer modems. Pornographers in particular have found 113 million new potential victims for their crimes via the Internet. Purveyors of smut have found it convenient to use the Internet to transmit or trade pornographic images of minors from one user to another.
Many children use the Internet daily to play games, complete homework and write e-mail messages. The ease of data transfer increases the probability that these innocent minors may also be exposed to illegal pornographic material.
The Bexar County Criminal District Attorney's Office has taken a hard stand against child pornography. We aggressively prosecute these types of cases.
As a parent of a minor child, you should know some safety tips to keep your child safe on the Internet.
Talk to your Children
Let your children know that they can talk to you about anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable. Remember, how you respond will determine whether they confide in you the next time they encounter a problem.
Tell your children not to respond when someone offers them something for nothing, such as free software, gifts and money.
Remind your children that the people they chat with are still strangers. Bear in mind that people may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or hear people online it’s easy for an adult to pretend they are kids.
Set reasonable rules and guidelines for your children before they venture out on the Internet. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder.
Work together to decide what is and is not appropriate. Try to enlist children's cooperation and self-regulation wherever possible. For example, have your children write and sign a statement agreeing not to visit certain Web sites.
Never allow your child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make sure that it’s in a public place, and be sure to accompany your child.
Never give out information about your child such as home address, school name, telephone number, age or any other personal information.
Never use your child's name or email address in any public directories or profiles.
Tell your children to never respond to threatening or obscene messages.
Never click on any links that are contained in email from persons they don't know. Such links could lead to sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate web sites.
Never post photographs of your children on web forums that are available to the public.
As a Family
Make Internet use a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than in the child's bedroom.
Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.
Spend time online with your children. Get to know your children’s "online-friends" just as you get to know all of their other friends. Get to know their favorite sites. Talk about what they like and dislike about the site as a way of reinforcing your values.
Be an involved parent. Monitor your child’s online activity just as you would the shows they watch on television, the games they play or the movies they see.
What YOU Can Do
Getting online yourself will help alert you to any potential problem that you children may incur while on the Internet.
If you become aware of the transmission, use or viewing of child pornography while online, immediately notify your local police department or report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Cyber Tipline at 800.843.5678, or visit their website. Also visit the NetSmartz Workshop.
Ask your Internet Service Provider (ISP) whether they offer filtering services to families with young children, many do. If not check out filtering software that you can purchase for a modest cost.
If your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy to your ISP, and ask for their assistance; and contact your local police department.
Visit www.missingkids.com for more tips on protecting your children.