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Protecting Your Children Online

The following information comes from the FBI; it helps parents identify behaviors that may indicate inappropriate activities online.

For further information, or to report incidents, please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678, or click on this image link.

Click this link to get to the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

For information about the Florida Amber Plan,
please visit the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's
Missing Children Information Clearinghouse.

Introduction

Although the Internet opens a world of possibilities for children, they can also be exposed to dangers while exploring the information super-highway. There are individuals who may attempt to sexually exploit children by gradually lowering their inhibitions. As the relationship continues, the child may consider the person a "friend," and won't want to hurt their feelings or get them into trouble.

What are signs that your child might be at risk online?

  • You find pornography on your child's computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from adults you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
  • Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.

What should you do if you suspect your child is communicating with a sexual predator online?

  • Consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions.
  • Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how, ask a friend, co-worker, relative, or other knowledgeable person.
  • Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child.
  • Telephone companies also offer a feature that rejects incoming calls that you block. Use this feature to prevent computer-sex offenders from calling your home.
  • Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been dialed from your home phone.
  • Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail.

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or online service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

  • Your child received child pornography.
  • Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under 18 years of age.
  • Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that knows your child is under the age of 18.

If one of these scenarios occurs, stop using the computer to preserve any evidence and call your local law enforcement agency immediately. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.

Solutions

What can you do to minimize the chances of an online exploiter victimizing your child?

  1. Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization online danger.
  2. Spend time with your children online. Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations.
  3. Keep the computer in a common room in the house. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another members of the household.
  4. Use parental controls provided by your service provider.
  5. Patrol the electronic chats. While chat rooms can be a great place for children to discuss various topics of interest, computer-sex offenders also prowl them.
  6. Always maintain access to your child's online account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the mail.
  7. Teach your child the responsible use of the resources online.
  8. Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends.
  9. Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation that he/she is not at fault and is the victim.

Additional Safeguards

  • Instruct your children to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they meet online.
  • Instruct your children to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or online service to people they do not personally know.
  • Instruct your children to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.
  • Instruct your children to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images.
  • Instruct your children to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing.
  • Instruct your children that whatever they are told online may or may not be true.

For more information on this issue, see also:


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Florida Computer Crime Center

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