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Internet Smarts: How to Safeguard Your Child or Teen Article by Vasrue.com
Did you know that 61 percent of all 13- to 17-year olds have created a profile on social networking sites like MySpace, Xanga or Friendster? Futhermore, 14 percent of teens surveyed in a recent Cox Communication study, in partnership with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), said they've either met or are considering meeting someone face-to-face with whom they initially met online. These children and teenagers consider their online (and offline) behavior safe. It's ultimately up to parents and guardians to protect our youth from danger.
Internet threats include viruses, stalkers, peer bullying, contact with child and sexual predators, exposure to pornography, graphic violence and other inappropriate content. Your son or daughter faces these dangers every time he or she surfs the Internet, engages in email or Instant Messaging activities.
What can you do to protect your child?
Learn about Internet safety on sites like NetSmartz (www.netsmartz.org), Play it Cyber Safe (www.playitcybersafe.com) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.cybertipline.org).
Communicate with your children, ask where they surf and who they email and instant message. Teach them about safe online practices.
Set house rules on computer use and show them what they can and cannot do.
Set their computer up with approved bookmarks only, and ask them to tell you if they stray within a few clicks from these websites.
Put the computer in a common area like the living or family room.
Ensure your children never discloses personal or financial information including their full name, where they live or where you work. If they fill out forms, ask them to use a fictitious name and always get your permission.
Keep Internet accounts in your name so you can control passwords and filters.
Let children know that there are frightening things online. Show them how to turn the monitor off if they come across something that upsets or confuses them, or if something makes them feel uncomfortable.
Encourage your child to tell you or a trusted adult about any suspicious behavior online.

The Internet is a great educational tool. But it's changing at alarming rates with new dangers springing constantly. Stay informed, know what your child is doing and always keep communication lines open.

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