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With the rise in popularity of the Internet and the prominent role that it is becoming in everyday life, it has become necessary to understand that, as a fairly new medium of communication, it is largely unregulated. As a communications revolution, it’s growth has exceeded our ability to police it and, while the various governments and law enforcement agencies attempt to catch up to the responsibility, it falls to the parents, schools and the vast moral majority to safeguard our children from the various elements that would use the Internet to prey on our youth. The guidelines on this page are made merely to assist those responsible and to provide some helpful suggestions in safeguarding any child’s use in the various functions such as chatting, email and browsing.
On March 10, 1998, FBI Director Louis Freeh, America Online CEO Steve Case, Treasury Undersecretary for Enforcement Raymond Kelly, Senators Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire) and Ernest Hollings (D-South Carolina) and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children announced the launch of CyberTipline at the NCMEC's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. It's purpose is to provide anyone on the Internet with a method to report child exploitation. It's 24-hour operation will report tips to various local, national and international law enforcement agencies.
Please contact the cybertipline via the link above (or by calling 1-800-843-5678) if you have information that will help in our fight against child exploitation. Your information will be forwarded to the appropriate authorites.
NOTE: The documents provided in the links below are in "PDF" format so you will be required to view them using Adobe Acrobat. If you do not have it installed on your computer you may obtain it from the Adobe Systems website here:
Internet Safety: A Guide to Protecting Children in Cyberspace (Click on the picture to the left to download) An informational guide, released by the Child Abuse Unit, that covers various topics relating to children and safety on the Internet such as: types of child exploitation, risks encountered online, signs that your child may be at risk, safety tips, a glossary of various terms and an explanation of helpful software.
Personal Safety for Children: A Guide for Parents (Click on the picture to the left to download)
Comprehensive guide, released at the 2002 White House Conference on Missing, Exploited, and Runaway Children, for parents to help keep their children safer at home, at school, and in the community.(from the NCMEC)
The Possession, Manufacture, and Distribution of Child Pornography
Child pornography has been defined under federal statute as a visual depiction of a minor (child younger than 18) engaged in sexually explicit conduct ( 18 U.S.C. 2256).
The Online Enticement of Children For Sexual Acts
Use of the Internet to entice, invite, or persuade a child to meet for sexual acts, or to help arrange such a meeting, is a serious offense (18 U.S.C. 2425).
Prostitution is generally defined as performing, offering, or agreeing to perform a sexual act for any money, property, token, object, article or anything of value (18 U.S.C. 2431, 2423(a).
It is against the law for any United States citizen to travel abroad to engage in sexual activity with any child under the age of eighteen (18 U.S.C. 2423b). Individuals who partake in this illegal activity are subject to prosecution in the United States even if they committed the crime on foreign soil.
Child Sexual Molestation (not in the family)
Child sexual exploitation (not in the family), also known as extra-familial child sexual abuse, includes all sexual exploitation of a child by someone other than a family member.
Unsolicited Obscene Material Sent to a Child
It is a violation of criminal law for any person to knowingly or attempt to send or transfer obscene material to another individual who has not attained the age of 16 years (18 USCA 1470).
Probably the most frightening result of online contact is when a child elects to meet someone in person without the knowledge of a guardian or parent. Since the Internet provides a person to express themselves in a less than truthful manner often, an online contact is not who they absolutely represent themselves to be. Predators are savvy enough to detect a child’s curiosity or need – which can result from a dysfunctional environment or a determination to establish their own identity. Building upon a false sense of trust, the predator will then secure a child’s confidence and encourage a bond that they hope will result in their meeting offline and in person.
This aspect of online safety can confront a child in every use of the Internet whether in chatting, browsing or email. What an adult needs to understand is that objectionable material is not just pornography but can also include various philosophies (anti-Semitism, gender roles, sexual deviancy) to harmful and dangerous information (How to make a bomb, Tips and tricks for hacking or assassination guidelines).
There are various sites on the Internet that allow for “virtual” shopping or other methods of spending money such as online gambling casinos , memberships for various types of access and online auction houses like eBay. While parents are, largely very responsible for their credit information – in the event a situation should arise where a child is able to obtain a parents credit card various problems can arise. Age verification on the internet is very sketchy and not very thorough and that only provides a mediocre defense against unauthorized spending.
A popular aspect of the Internet in the last 3 years is the rise of “file–sharing” and the use of the many “file-sharing” programs (Napster, Kazaa, BearShare) . These programs allow users to directly connect to other computers and transfer or “share” files between each other. The most popular forms of files that are transferred are pictures, music files (mp3s) and movies. A large number of these files are copyrighted and thus, illegal to reproduce. With the role that the entertainment industry has taken in combating this it is becoming increasingly risky to engage in this form of file transfer.
Whether in an organized forum, in a chat room or in instant messaging, people often express themselves much more freely on the internet without the benefit of the normal guidelines or clues a person might normally use when conversing. Thus, what one person may find objectionable may result in anger because, unlike in the “real” world, there is not the benefit of facial expression or tone of voice. It's difficult to know the intensity of someone's feelings and it's very hard to resolve emotional disputes that occur online. In the most extreme of circumstances an online acquaintance who is angered may resort to harassment.
Another danger that can have widespread ramifications is the loss of privacy due to personal information being obtained for nefarious methods. A growing crime that has begun to affect people the world over is “identity theft”. With just a little information a perpetrator can create a false ID or apply for credit cards based on another persons statistics and the result can be months of legal issues and financial problems. Revealing personal information can make a person the target of spam. Spamming is the practice of being inundated with multiple emails – a form of advertising – that may be unwanted and irritating. While, on the surface, this may not seem to be an alarming issue it is well known that personal information is traded amongst various companies and that result can be a seemingly endless flow of “junk” mail – which can be deceptive and, in some cases, objectionable.
It is illegal to threaten or intimidate any person - regardless of the medium it is delivered upon. The threat may be even more dangerous if it is delivered in a public forum or through public access such as a chat room, newsgroup or bulletin board. Threats should not be taken likely and should be reported to the proper authorities should they be deemed serious. The posting of personal information concerning another individual can lead to various dangers and place people in very serious forms of jeopardy.
The Internet is a vast resource of information and can, oftentimes, become overwhelming in the amount that is found on any particular subject. The sources of information that various sites obtain their information from are not often cited and thus it makes it very difficult to verify. It is doubly important that when using the internet as a source that the site that contained any used information be cited itself so that a person may have proof of source. Children need to employ critical thinking skills to help them make sense of the material they uncover and distinguish between fact, opinion, rumors, and lies.
Seek out the advice and counsel of persons who are authorities on internet safety such as teachers, administrators or law enforcement (i.e. The Child Abuse Unit) so that you will gather a better understanding about issues concerning internet safety for children.
The most important key to child safety is effective communication with your child. Remember, children who do not feel that they are listened to or who do not think that their needs are met in the home are more vulnerable to abduction or exploitation.
Never give out identifying information
While it may be enjoyable for a child to have a profile for content providers such as America Online or Microsoft Network (and even some Internet based services such as ICQ or Yahoo Messenger) the actual profile does provide a pedophile a tool when searching for a potential victim. With this in mind, not having/allowing a profile should be a consideration when creating/using an account.
People online may not always be who they represent themselves to be. A child may be naïve enough to believe that the person they are talking to is someone of their own age but it could just as well be an adult attempting to lure them into a false sense of security
The term stranger suggests a concept that children do not understand and is one that ignores what we do know about people who commit crimes against children. It misleads children into believing that they should only be aware of individuals who have an unusual or slovenly appreance. A clear, calm, and reassuring message about situations and actions to look out for is easier for a child to understand than a particular profile or image of a "stranger".
Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission and observation. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child.
Teach your child to notify you if they are contacted by an adult in instant messages, chat rooms, or e-mail
Talk to your child about potential on-line dangers
Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. Show them the many benefits that it has to offer and how to take advantage of them for school.
It's not at all uncommon for children to know more about the Internet and computers than their parents or teachers. As an excuse to get more involved you can ask them to teach you about the internet and the various things they have learned for it. It is a great way to learn their interests and habits online. There is absolutely no replacement for good parenting.
Teach your children not to open e-mails, files, or Web pages that they get from people they don't really know or trust.
For any account that gives a child access to the internet make sure that they never give out their password
Be very leery of those who want to know too much. . Teach your child to trust their instincts. If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, often enough, there is a good reason.
Teach your kids the value of trusting their own judgment so as to strengthen them from being easily influence into something that they feel is uncomfortable.
Teach children to never respond to instant messages, bulletin board items, chat room queries or emails that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent or make them feel uncomfortable
Discuss rules and guidelines for computer usage with your children. While developing some rules you give them the satisfaction of being involved in the process – even if you already had a clear objective in mind. Post these guidelines next to the computer as a reminder. Monitor your children’s compliance with these rules. Excessive use of online services or the Internet, especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem.
Parents should take an interest in the friends that a child makes online as they would those he or she makes at school.
Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how or what something is then ask someone for help in finding or understanding what is found.
Talk to your child. Don’t approach them in an alarmed manner or one that might elicit a defensive emotional response. Instead, talk to them calmly and explain the dangers that surround online predators.
Do not be afraid to use parental controls, Internet Filtering or Monitoring Software as an aid to help ensure child safety online. While they are not, by any means, a replacement for human involvement, they can be an invaluable aid for parents and are largely recommended and endorsed by law enforcement, teachers and administrators
Monitor your child’s use of the telephone and the calls they receive. Use the *69 feature or some form of Caller ID in an attempt to determine the source of the phone number in question. Pay attention to numbers that appear (long distance) on the phone bill and do not be afraid to question your child about them.
Check your child’s computer for any downloaded material. This may include graphics (bmp, gif, jpg) movies (mov, avi, asf, mpg, mpeg) or soundbites (wav, mp3). These files can be obtained via download from emails, various instant messaging programs (AIM, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, etc.), Content Providers (America Online, MSN), emails, or from various online sites.
Never blame your child if he/she is a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation. The child is not at blame or fault he/she is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
Contact the Child Abuse Unit through the “Contact” page available on this site