What to Do If Your Child Runs Into Trouble Online

What to Do If Your Child Runs Into Trouble Online

Are the parent of a child or teenager who uses the interenet?  As much as we would all like to believe that are children are safe when using the internet, there are certain situations that may, unfortunately, arise.  It is important to remember that most children use the internet to communicate with their friends or to make new friends, not just to do research for school projects.  If your child finds themselves in trouble online and comes to you, do you know what you can or should do?

As it was previously stated, numerous situations can develop online that have the potential to be dangerous.  One of those situations is when personal information is exchanged with a stranger.  Has your child recently given away your phone number, address, or their email address to someone who they don’t really know? 

If so, be sure to change as much information as possible.  This may involve changing your home phone number or your child’s cell phone number or email address.  Be sure to take additional safety steps, such as always being aware of your surroundings, locking your home and car, and you may also want to contact your local authorities.  Be sure to talk to your child about the dangers of exchanging personal information online. 

In keeping with exchanging personal information online, your child may end up talking to an adult, thinking that they are another teenager or close to their age.  If that is the case, your child is likely dealing with an internet predator, who can be old enough to be a parent or a grandparent. 

If your child has made contact, intentionally or unintentionally, with an older person online, has any personal information been exchanged?  If so, change that information, like your child’s email address, cell phone, or even if your home phone number.  Make sure that the contact stops immediately.  Contact the authorities, school officials, and make sure that all family members know.  Get as much information you can about the real person behind the computer.  The police may be able to help you do so.

Many high school and junior high school students use social networking websites, like MySpace.  Unfortunately, many also mistakenly believe that it is a good idea to try to look “cool,” online and at any cost.  Your child may post pictures or videos of themselves online doing illegal activities, like smoking or drinking underage, stealing, or doing drugs. 

If this is something that your child has done, be sure to remove the pictures or videos right away.  If your child’s pictures or videos have been viewed by school officials or authorities, they may be facing punishment.  A lawyer should be called if your child is arrested.  If your child is suspended from school or extra curricular activities, speak to school officials.  What can be done by both you, the parent, and your child?

Online harassment is another common problem that children, namely junior high school and high school students face.  This harassment can be done by a complete stranger, an online friend, or a friend right at school.  When friends have a falling out or even just a simple disagreement, many turn to the internet to seek revenge, as it is easy to hide behind a computer.

If your child finds themselves a victim of online harassment, the authorities should be contacted.  This is particularly important if your child does not actually know, in person, the individual who is making threats or spreading harmful rumors.  If the individual doing so is a former friend or another individual at school, there are a number of steps that you can take.  If you know the child and their parents, consider arranging a meeting, but be cautious and use your best judgment.  Alternatives involve contacting the authorities or the school.

As you can see, there are a number of troubling and potentially dangerous situations that your child can find themselves in online.  Just make sure that you, as the parent, take steps to help and protect your child.
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