Sue Scheff: Who are your kids mingling with online?

It is school break, holiday time, and more kids, especially teens, are surfing in cyberspace. The breaking story of the parents in the UK posing as their daughter to catch predator is an example of the dangers that lurk online.

Chat rooms are one of the riskiest places our kids can mingle in. It is difficult to monitor all their cyber time, so the best solution is to educate them. First, parents need to be educated. Reminder to parents: Order your FREE booklet on Cyber safety from the FTC today.

Here are some Chat Room Safety Tips for Teens:

Source: Assembly of Words

1. Never enter into private chats or private chat rooms with people you don't know. Most kids know about stranger danger and are taught not to talk to, or give personal details to strangers in the street. The same rules apply, don't do it with strangers online either.

2. Think before you send a message. Once a message is out there, there is no way to get it back so think before you send the message and be careful about what you let others know about you.

3. Be careful of who you trust or think you know. Online predators specifically target chat rooms as most kids feel safe as they are in the comfort of their own home. Just because you have seen someone's profile, they are still a stranger.

4. Always use a nickname on your personal profile and don't include any personal details.

5. Log out if you, in any way, feel uncomfortable and make sure you tell a parent or adult immediately.

6. Stay in control. Never give out personal details in chat rooms, it doesn't matter how well you think you know them. This includes your name, nickname, address, phone number, password details, email addresses etc. If they are a friend, get their home email address(not an online one) or phone number and communicate personal details that way.

7. Learn how to block and/or ignore people.

8. Never meet anyone you have met in a chat room in person. If you must meet someone in person make sure you discuss it with an adult so that they can make sure its in a public area and with an adult present.

9. Learn how to save parts of your chat room conversations you may want to show your parents or report to the authorities.

10. Look out for your friends. Never use their information instead of yours and make sure they follow the same guidelines. Let your parents know if you think your friend is in trouble or out of their depth.

11. Know how to report any suspicious behavior to your chat room provider and tell your parents. Things like inappropriate comments, asking for personal information, talking about things that make you uncomfortable should all be taken seriously. Don't be embarrassed or ashamed of any inappropriate behavior online, it is not uncommon and it is not your fault, so please tell an adult.

If teens and kids follow these simple steps they will significantly reduce any potential chat room dangers for themselves.

Be sure to be ready for 2010 by making a resolution to learn more about Internet safety and your family.

Parenting 2010 - Getting ahead of your kids technically! T.A.L.K.

Also on Examiner.

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