How can I keep my child safe from online strangers?

Excerpted from an article on – http://kidshealth.org/parent/question/safety/internet_strangers.html#cat20254

Simple surfing and instant messaging with friends are common activities for kids — and generally safe, if you’ve discussed some rules of use with them. Chatting with strangers, however, may be a different story. Although there’s no way to know the actual risk, the FBI cautions that kids whose Internet activity isn’t monitored are most at risk for being exploited.

Keep the computer in a common room in the house, rather than in your their bedroom. Take an interest in the sites they are visiting and the people with whom they are chatting (some shady characters pose as kids or teens in chat rooms to seem less threatening). Warn him never to give out his personal information (his phone number, name, address, school name, etc.), agree to meet in-person anyone he meets in a chat room, or share any photographs.

Urge them to introduce you to any new “friends” he meets online and to tell you if they ever feel uncomfortable about conversations that take place. Most important, talk about the dangers of interacting with strangers online and remind them that people online often don’t tell the truth. The FBI also recommends that parents maintain access to young kids’ online accounts and randomly check their email.

Finally, you can use parental controls offered by your internet service provider or through blocking and filtering software.

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