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Guide to

Internet & Cell Phone Safety

Table of Contents Introduction.........................................2 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly............... ..3 The Social Networking Generation............ ..4 The Dangers of MySpace........................ ..5 Sexting...............................................7 Let’s Chat: Texting and IM...................... ..8 Disturbing Visuals: Porn and Webcams....... .10 Other Threats: Violence and Gambling........12 Cyberbullying......................................14 Staying Safe on Social Networks and IM.......15 Protecting Your Child.............................16 Writing an Internet Behavior Agreement......18 Additional Resources.............................20




n 2002, Massachusetts Family Institute published the Massachusetts Family Guide to Internet Safety. The Family Guide presented some of the challenges and dangers of the wonderful technology known to that point. In the years since, the Internet has changed significantly, but the responsibility to guide and protect children online remains the same. Massachusetts Family Institute has updated the guide, including new material as well as resources to assist parents in addressing new challenges and answering difficult questions and to support them in the complex and ever-changing World Wide Web.

Many parents are unaware of when their children are online and trust that they are cautious. Others find their children’s attraction to technology and the impersonality of web-based communication hard to comprehend. Seventynine percent of teenagers agree, however, It is vitally that most teens are not careful about sharing important personal information online, and 64 percent of teens say that they are involved in things that parents online that they wouldn’t want their parents to understand what know about. While some of these “things” may be harmless, many of them could be placing is available on children in danger.

the Internet and what their children are doing online.

It is vitally important that parents understand what is available on the Internet and what their children are doing online. There are many fine websites and other opportunities for learning on the Internet. There are also many hidden dangers. Some of these threats are not physically dangerous. Those that can harm a child mentally and emotionally, however, may turn out to be just as damaging and have long-lasting effects. Although no parent can protect his or her children from every danger on the Internet, all parents have the responsibility to educate themselves and teach their children how to be safe online.

The Guide to Internet and Cell Phone Safety is intended to help parents help their children negotiate the Internet in a safe and effective way. Supporting families is critical to the mission of MFI which is to strengthen and educate families.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


he Internet is a worldwide, publicly accessible system of interconnected computer networks that carries various types of information and services. A virtual world, with seemingly limitless amounts of In addition to its data just mouse clicks away, the World Wide Web makes it possible for anyone to conduct positive aspects, research, investigate endless commodities, the Internet has monitor various sites, read countless blogs, a “bad”—even an and connect to friends--and strangers-around the globe. This is the “good” and ugly—side to it. increasingly essential side of the Internet. As the number of computers and their efficiency increase, so does their widespread use. Currently, 87 percent of teenagers in the United States use the Internet, compared to 73 percent in 2000. More than half of them use the Internet daily, at home, at school, in the library and with friends. Many are online for hours at a time, making its frequent use, safety and dangers important for parents to understand. Since the first Massachusetts Family Institute Guide to Internet Safety, the dangers lurking on the Internet have multiplied along with wonderful opportunities for learning. Clearly, in addition to its positive aspects, the Internet has a “bad”—even an ugly—side to it. Pornography and predators remain primary threats, and the purveyors of smut and the adults who prey on children have found new tools to peddle their trade and ingratiate themselves in order to fulfill their desires. The “bad” side of the Internet also includes gambling, cyberbullying, and violent gaming. Each of these types of online activity can create victims in its own way. Unfortunately, the progressive nature of the “bad” side of the Internet leads some to the “ugly” area. Pornography can lead some to make their fantasies a reality, while gambling addiction can lead otherwise “good” people to commit crimes to feed their habit. The Internet’s ugliest aspect is the victimization of children by sexual predators who succeed in abducting and abusing their targets.


The Social Networking Generation


ySpace and Facebook are the names of the two premier social networking websites. They are also names that elicits excitement in teenagers and should instill caution in parents. MySpace and Facebook, along with other similar sites, allow users to create their own personal web pages where they share their interests, thoughts and feelings, post pictures, and ‘blog’ about their real and imagined experiences. The nightly news and special reports regularly outline the success predators have in using these and other social networking sites to gain access to teenagers. Originally, MySpace was an online place for bands to promote their music and generate new fans, but it quickly became a place where teenagers communicate with each The nightly news other about music and more. Recent numbers regularly outline put the percentage of online teenagers who use these social networks at 55 percent. Facebook the success and MySpace cover more than 85 percent of the predators have nation’s high school and college students. With in using social the average MySpace user spending more than 1.5 networking sites hours on the site each day, this phenomenon not absorbs time but also permits widespread to gain access to only communication on a myriad of subjects-both teenagers. concerns that parents cannot take lightly. These “social” sites also offer users a valid email address to create their own profiles. Personal information including name, age, hometown, likes and dislikes, thoughts and feelings, as well as photographs, is shared with others on the site. When creating a profile, users must enter their age, but there is no mechanism in place to verify the accuracy of age or any other information. Nor are there any guarantees that profiles are not visible to anyone who happens upon them or that an entire profile is not the fiction of a predator.


Another feature of many websites is known as a “blog”. The term is short for “web log,” the description of a site that allows people to post their own materials. MySpace has a blog feature integrated into the user’s page, but sites like blogger.com and blogit.com allow anyone to become a blogger and author their own blogs. Many teenagers use blogs to share thoughts about every aspect of their lives, including teachers, parties and sex. These free-ranging topics, material and conversations are completely unmonitored.

The Dangers of Social Networks // Personal Information – Though many teenagers are savvy enough not to post their last names or street address online, most are not aware of the danger of posting other personal information. MySpace encourages users to list their schools and places of employment so that they can more easily connect with classmates and coworkers. Another often unintentional source of personal information can be comments made by a user’s friends. Teens may be known by their last name, and friends can post it, making it available to anyone who visits their page. Finally, many teenagers utilize the site’s “bulletin” feature to spread a mass message to all their friends to announce after school activities or when and where the next party is going to be. This information can be accessed by predators as well as friends. // Predators – The lack of age verification on websites like MySpace allows both teenagers and adults to assume identities that are not their own. For younger teens, stating their age as older will allow them more freedom online because users “over 16” can make their profiles public or private. As easily as a 14-year-old girl can make herself 18, a 50-year-old man can identify himself as a 19-year-old from the next town. The anonymity of online communication allows a predator to pass himself off as a teenager, adopt the interests of his victim, and then find blog posts that reveal a vulnerable emotional issue he can exploit to earn his victim’s trust. Furthermore, predators come in all types, male and female, as well as young and old. 5

// Suggestive Photos – All social networking sites allow users to post pictures of themselves and their friends, and there are sites, such as flickr.com, geared directly towards sharing pictures. The harm does not come from the ability to post pictures, although a picture gives a predator one more tool to use in finding a victim; rather, it results from the types of pictures some teens are posting. Many teenage girls compete with their real-life friends to see how many MySpace friends they can accumulate. In an effort to boost their friend requests, they post pictures, sometimes posing in bikinis or underwear, that will attract boys. While the sites ban outright nudity, they are far more lax on sexually suggestive photographs. Such pictures can be an open invitation to any predator taking note. They can also be seen by employers and college admission officers who are increasingly likely to visit social websites to confirm information on applications. At the very least, such material can end up being very embarrassing. // Contrary Values – Curse words, suggestive advertisements, pornstars, sexual content, violent videos – all are commonly found on MySpace. MySpace also asks intrusive questions to get teens to identify their sexuality--Bi, Gay/Lesbian, Straight, Not Sure, No Answer--as well as their Marital Status (Swinger, In a Relationship, Single, Divorced, Married). Social-Networking Glossary Friend – Someone whom the user has either invited to be a part of their profile or has requested and been accepted by the user. For users who choose to make their profiles private (those under 16 years old are automatically private), only their “friends” can view their full profile. Comments/Wall Posts – A person’s friends can leave public comments on their profile (MySpace) or Wall (Facebook) that can be viewed by anybody. These can be text, pictures or video and can include revealing information. Messages – A message is a private message between users who may or may not be friends. These messages appear in their “Inbox” on both MySpace and Facebook. Bulletins/Notes – A user can post an item for all their friends to see as a Bulletin (MySpace) or Note (Facebook). These messages appear in a running feed on other users’ pages. Sometimes they are used to post extensive surveys about one’s likes and dislikes, to gossip, and to spread the word about the next big party. Photos/Videos - Both photos and videos can be posted by users and their friends, and while there are restrictions on the content, suggestive imagery and foul language easily make it past the censors and onto public profiles.


sexting: More than "kids being kids"


ust in the past few years, the word “sexting” has stormed onto the scene and teenagers with their cell phones are at the center of the tempest. By definition, sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between cell phones. A 2008 study found that about 1 in 5 teenagers had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically, with nearly 40% admitting to sending sexually explicit text messages. The biggest danger posed by sexting is the ease of promulgating the material widely. Though some may pass it off as innocent, hormonal flirting between teenagers, the “innocence” of the action can quickly be replaced by sexual activity, embarrassment, harassment and even suicide. A simple text message to a friend can easily be forwarded with just a few clicks to dozens of classmates, expanding the number of viewers far beyond that which the originator had intended. In one well-publicized incident, a young woman in Cincinnati sent nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend, but when they broke up, he sent those pictures to other girls resulting in repeated harassment at school. Following a few miserable months of the torment, the teenage girl committed suicide, hanging herself in her bedroom. Sending nude pictures can lead to early sexual activity, sexuallytransmitted diseases and pregnancy. Since the participants are underage, sexting can also result in criminal child pornography charges against the originator, as well as those forwarding the images. Cell phones have become a staple in teenage life and arguably necessary in helping parents to keep tabs on their children. But parents must be vigilant in monitoring what their teenagers are using their phones for, and if possible, limit their use and consider phones without cameras. 7

Let's Chat:

Instant Messaging


ith the advent of the World Wide Web has come a whole wealth of multi-user communication experiences, ranging from real-time online chat to instant messaging and online forums. New technology is in the process of being developed that will enable file sharing, webcams and graphical social environments to be included in some programs. A chat room is an online gathering place where anyone can share information via text with a group of other users. Online chat is a way of communicating by sending text messages to people in the same chat room in real-time and remaining virtually anonymous. Topics in chat rooms are as varied as the people in them. Some people who visit chat rooms use them as a place to experience online sex, also known as cybersex. In fact, 65 percent of online sexual solicitations occurs in chat rooms, making them the most dangerous areas of the Internet. This real-time and usually anything-goes electronic medium is a haven for predators. Today’s chatrooms allow participants to broadcast live web videos of themselves doing everything. Another popular option for teenagers is instant messaging or “IM”. Instant messaging is not exactly a chat room because IM is characterized by a oneon-one conversation with a person on a user’s “Buddy list”. IM differs from e-mail in that conversations happen in real-time, offering more genuine conversation than email’s letter format. In further contrast to e-mail, IM lets a user know whether the other person is available for the conversation. Seventy-five percent of online teens—about twothirds of all teenagers— use instant messaging to communicate with each other. With technological advances, many cell phones and other handheld devices now support instant messaging software. 8

The most common instant messenger programs are AOL

Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Google Chat. There is no cost for these services that are easily downloaded from each company’s website. There is no limit to the number of accounts that can be set up, and many teens establish different accounts to maintain secrecy, avoiding parents and certain friends. Once again, that anonymity is a factor that can become a danger. While almost no young girl would willingly conduct a personal conversation with an old man about her sexual desires and innermost thoughts, instant messaging is “different,” as one teenage girl described it. A teen populates a “buddy list” with other IM users with whom they chat. Some children are more discerning than others about the people they add to their buddy list. Sometimes teens categorize their buddies according to the frequency of their conversations, or by topics, or when they ‘met’. Many teens post their screen names (the names that appear on their friend’s buddy list) on their MySpace and Facebook profiles so that their friends can IM them too. Make sure your child can tell you exactly to whom each screen name belongs.

omg, lol, and asl: know their language AIM – ASL – BF – BRB – CD9 – F2F – FAP - GF - IDK – LOL –

AOL Instant Messenger Age Sex Location Boyfriend Be Right Back Parents nearby Face to face Masturbate Girlfriend I don’t know Laughing out loud

MOS – NM – OMG – P911 – PIR – POS – TTYL – WIN – WTF –

Mom over shoulder Not much Oh my god Parent Emergency Parent in room Parent over shoulder Talk to you later Success at getting girls to strip What the f*ck?


Disturbing Visuals:

Porn, Webcams and Violence



f the Internet was turned on at 3 o’clock, the first pornographic image was probably posted at 3:01. Pornographers were quick to recognize the potential for extending their smut world-wide.

To put the pornography problem in perspective, consider some of the following statistics: • 11 years old is the average age a child is first exposed to pornography • Teenage boys between ages 12 and 17 are the single largest group of consumers of Internet pornography • 90 percent of youths ages 8 to 16 have viewed online pornography • 80 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 have had multiple exposures to hard-core pornography. Pornography is a virus that has spread to nearly every corner of the Internet. Email inboxes are clogged with pornographic spam, popular websites are littered with pornographic advertisements, and even seemingly innocuous online through search engines like Google can result in links to pornography. Teens send each other porn as jokes, porn distributors use free porn for marketing purposes and predators desensitize their victims by sending them illegal child pornography. Beyond the degrading nature of pornography for those who participate in producing it, the persons viewing it can be affected for their entire lives. The invasive and destructive nature of pornography can become addictive especially for a teenage boy with overactive hormones and can influence his attitudes toward women and sex forever. Pornography is also progressive, with those addicted needing increasingly deviant material to get the same level of excitement. 10

Massachusetts Family Institute has always taken a strong stand against pornography and obscenity because of its distortion of what a healthy sexual relationship should encompass. Safe sex within a monogamous marriage is never portrayed in pornography. Teens frequently exposed to pornography are likely to have problems later experiencing true intimacy in a loving, committed relationship with a spouse.

Webcams: Homemade, underage porn


hildren are not only exposed to graphic pornography on the Internet, but they are increasingly becoming the stars and producers of their own homemade and underage sexual material. In this case, adults are not behind the camera. Instead, boys and girls are filming themselves, making money doing it and putting themselves in danger. Webcams and Internet cameras are used to record the subject and broadcast it across the Internet. Sometimes these broadcasts are live (some popular sites are blogtv. com and justin.tv); other times the recordings are produced and then made available for download. A well documented case involves a 13-year-old boy named Justin who innocently hooked up a webcam and began broadcasting himself online. In no time, pedophiles were offering him money and gifts to perform on camera for them. Justin’s parents were never aware of his online business, which continued for years and resulted not only in hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gifts for Justin but also several instances of physical sexual abuse with men he met online. While there are teens just like Justin making money like this over the Internet, more often the release of homemade porn is unintentional on the part of the underage “pornstar.” Due to the prevalence of porn on the Internet, many teenagers think it is “no big deal” to pose nude. They take pictures and videos of themselves and send them to their boyfriends and girlfriends. Unfortunately, relationships may end, but the pictures live on in cyberspace, from paid porn sites to pedophile support groups to MySpace pages. Sometimes these embarrassing images are used by predators to blackmail their victims and also by fellow classmates to ruin a person’s reputation.


Other Threats:

Violence and Gambling

Beyond nudity: Violent content


ideos of youths beating each other violently are now being posted on sites like YouTube and Google Video. These clips are becoming more numerous and more brutal, making law enforcement officers and child welfare officials increasingly concerned. Both boys and girls—the latter, alarmingly, even more so—are resorting to fighting to settle disputes, and their friends film the brawls on digital cameras and cell phones and then post them online. Not surprisingly, the audience is Both boys and also increasingly featured enjoying the fight and girls are egging on the combatants. Many of the websites resorting to on which teens post their videos allow users to rank the videos and leave comments, further fighting to settle disputes, encouraging the violence.

and their friends film the brawls on their cell phones, posting them later online.

The victims of these videos—whether the targets of the beating or the losers of the fight—face not only physical consequences but also the humiliation of having it shown online. While the physical damage will heal over time, the emotional and psychological scars can have lasting effects that could lead the victims to further dangerous behavior.

In addition to these types of videos, there is a plethora of violent content to view and often to purchase on the Internet, including graphic battle scenes, video of people and animals being hit by trains, and every other type of gruesome and degenerate violence. Parents must be aware that in addition to sex, the other best-selling Hollywood subject, violence, is both free and easily accessible on the Internet.

Gambling away their future


espite being illegal, online gambling is ubiquitous. One out of every 10 teenagers admits to gambling online at least once a month, with an estimated 580,000 young people between ages 14 and 22 participating weekly.


One study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania estimated that 7.9 million American teens are addicted to gambling, a startling number that means that more than half of the pathological gamblers in this country are kids. Despite these numbers, many parents are unaware that gambling can be a problem for children as well as adults. Before the Internet, children had very limited access to gambling. Now, however, gambling is a mere click away. In addition, popular culture has glamorized gambling, especially poker, with television shows set in Las Vegas, celebrity poker tournaments on ESPN, and poker sets marketed directly to teenagers and sold at toy stores. It is a concerning fact that children are far more likely than adults to become addicted to gambling. Furthermore, the damage and the costs of unchecked teenage gambling can be enormous. When teens no longer have the cash to gamble, they often turn to selling their possessions to sustain their habit. Stealing oftentimes develops, and usually from parents and grandparents. Credit cards provide an easy way to pay for online gambling, and most teens use their parents’ cards. Because actual “cash” is not exchanged, a teen gambler can easily rack up thousands of dollars in gambling debt.

Warning Signs of a child’s Online Gambling Addiction • • • • •

Frequent borrowing of money and inability to repay Carrying excessive and unexplained amounts of cash Money or valuables missing from their rooms or your home Frequent, unexplained absences from home School-related problems like a drop in grades or missing classes



The oft overlooked danger


hile the threats of pornography and predators are well documented and well-known, cyberbulling is not as well recognized and can have deadly consequences. According to Cyberbully.org, a website “mobilizing educators, parents, students and others to combat online social cruelty,” cyberbullying includes: • Sending cruel, vicious, and sometimes threatening messages, • Creating websites that have stories, cartoons, pictures and jokes ridiculing others, • Posting pictures of classmates online and asking students to rate them, with questions such as “Who is the biggest ___ (insert derogatory word), • Breaking into an email account and sending vicious or embarrassing material to others, • Engaging someone in instant messaging, tricking that person into revealing sensitive personal information, and forwarding that information to others, • Taking a compromising picture of a person and sending it to others. Cyberbullying occurs most often among teens, but younger children can also be involved. It can become more vicious than any face-to-face bullying and can cause great emotional harm to the target. Further compounding the damage is the likely possibility that the victim will not report the bullying out of embarrassment or fear of retaliation by the cyberbully. In addition, this bullying can lead to offline violence and the potential for suicide by the victim.

Cyberbullying can become more vicious than any face-to-face bullying.


Another form of bullying on the Internet involves cyberthreats, ranging from threats of physical harm to others to online posts that threaten self-inflicted pain and possibly suicide. Law enforcement and school officials take these threats very seriously, but often they are unaware that they have been made until it’s too late.

Some teens consider cyberbullying to be merely fun or a game and do not appreciate the very real consequences of their actions. Since they may never see the harm they are causing their victim, they have difficulty grasping the seriousness of what they are doing.

Staying Safe on social networks and IM


ome parents do not allow their children to use social networking websites or instant messenger at all, but many parents do permit it. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for you to share with your children to help them stay safe whether they are on MySpace, Facebook, or Xanga or using AIM, Yahoo Messenger, or MSN Messenger.


&& Be honest about your age. && Use the privacy settings available so that only your friends or buddies can see your profile or communicate with you. && Follow the age restrictions of a website. If you are under 14, you shouldn’t be on MySpace. If you are under 18, you should not click through the 18+ Warning page. && Check the comments your friends post on your blog regularly and delete any that may give away personal information or be hurtful. && Remember that as soon as something is posted online, it is public. && Conduct yourself online with the same courtesy you would conduct yourself during in-person interactions. && Report to parents any unwanted sexual solicitations, pornography, bullying or other objectionable material. && Involve a parent or guardian if you have concerns about something you find online.


,, Post any personal information on your site or in your IM profile. This includes your name, age, school, job, town, street address, phone number, sports team, class schedule, local hangout or anything that a predator could use. ,, Arrange to meet anyone you find on the Internet without approval from your parents. ,, Use the Internet to make friends. Predators often select victims by playing on their personal information and citing common interests that they have found by reading your blog. ,, Accept people you don’t know to be your online friends or buddies. ,, Post any sexually suggestive pictures or other photos with identifying names or signs in them (school name, license plate, team mascot), or any pictures depicting illegal drug or alcohol use. ,, Participate in bullying or flaming (posting or sending offensive messages) online.

Teen Resource: Don’t Believe the Type



Protecting Your Child


ow that you are informed of all the dangers children face on the Internet, the following section will equip you with easy and inexpensive ways to keep your children safe when they are online. What is your situation? There is no one answer to the question, “What am I supposed to do about these dangers?â€? Therefore, you should consider the following as you develop the strategy that best fits your situation: • • • • • • • •

Age and gender of your child Location of the computer Levels of parents’ and child’s computer knowledge Amount of time a child spends at home alone Curiosity level of the child Parental time and energy to monitor Internet usage Child’s place on the compliant-to-rebellious spectrum How well parent follows through with well-defined rules and consequences of breaking them • Nature of relationships between siblings • All of the above – applied to the homes of a child’s friends

Practical Tips for Safe Internet Use  Educate yourself first. The burden of learning about your computer and the Internet is squarely on you. While parents often joke about their lack of knowledge of computers compared to that of their children, it is no laughing matter. The more you know, the easier it will be to implement safeguards and keep tabs on your child’s online activities.  Then teach your children. Start when they are young, show them the “good� side of the Internet and make the dangers very clear. Role playing has proven to be an effective tool for many parents in illustrating the threats. Also state clearly that you will be monitoring their online activity. Remind them that character counts online just as much as it does in their offline lives. 16

 Keep communication channels open. The more comfortable your child feels talking with you about online activities, the less likely your child is to keep secrets from you. Offer to answer questions about ANYTHING they might want to know. Go over the responses that your child should have when your child must make decisions online about something seen or heard online.  Limit online time. Children should be encouraged to be active and reminded that they should spend quality time with their friends offline.  Computer should be located in open area. A child or teenager should never have a computer with Internet access in their bedroom. The computer should be located in a room with regular foot traffic. Make sure the screen is positioned where you can keep an eye on what your child is looking at. Some parents may want to limit access for young children and tweens to times when a parent is physically in the room with them.  Be honest and open about sex. Since the issue of sex is a major part of the Internet, it is important to have frank and honest discussions on the topic with your children. They need to know before going online about the dangers of promiscuity and pornography and what to do when they encounter salacious websites. State clearly that pornography is an extremely unhealthy addiction and unacceptable in your home.  Protect wireless connection. More people are setting up wireless networks in their homes, providing Internet access throughout the house and even the backyard. While this is a great tool, parents may not know when their children are online if the network is left unsecured. Be sure to encrypt (password-protect) the signal so that neighbors do not use your bandwidth and your child is not online somewhere in or around the house without your knowledge. Also, be aware of the possibility that signals from outside your home can allow your child to tap into an Internet connection.  Write an Internet Behavior Agreement. Consider writing an agreement that your child signs, dictating how the Internet will be used, both inside and outside your home. This agreement should clearly state expectations and the consequences for violating the agreement.


Writing an Internet Behavior Agreement A written and signed Internet Behavior Agreement is a great tool that parents can use to protect their children when online. When writing the Agreement, you should fully involve your son or daughter, expressing your concerns and discussing their online habits. Here are some factors to consider in the development of your agreement. How long and under what circumstances can your children use the Internet? Examples: an hour a day, but only after their homework and chores are completed; only on weekends; only with a parent in the room; only to do school work. What content is allowed? Will computer and Internet access be strictly limited to school-related projects and other educational purposes, or will they be able to socialize with their friends as well? This list can be revised as your children mature. What content is off limits? Be very clear and specific as to what is objectionable and not allowed. While pornography is obvious, other content to consider includes gambling, violence, hate groups, religious cults, bomb making, and anything with obscenity or profanity. This list needs to be set from the beginning and should be updated and reviewed regularly. What online communication is permissible? E-mail, instant messaging, social networking sites, chat rooms ‌ you should decide if your child can use all, some or none of these when they are online. Also, be clear in this section about your right as a parent to monitor some of these conversations.


What are your child’s privacy rights? You should be clear with your child how much access you expect to their e-mail messages, IM conversations, and passwords to social networking accounts. Some parents tell their children that there is no presumption of privacy, but others give a level of trust until that trust is abused. Remember, it’s not an invasion of their privacy if 300 million other people can read it.

How should your children react to something disturbing they encounter online? Be clear about what they should do, but also make them feel comfortable in coming to you. This is crucial to establishing trust between you and your child. Is offline, in-person contact allowed with online “friends”? Remind your child that not everyone they encounter online is who they say they are. You should also state under what circumstances, if any, they would be permitted to meet someone offline whom they met first online. What are the consequences if the rules are broken? Be very clear on the penalties and apply them every time. Be sure to make it clear in the agreement that these expectations and rules do not just apply in the home, but to Internet access everywhere—school, library, friend’s house, cell phones, and so on. (Source: Georgia Family Council and NetSafekids.)

Warning signs that your child may be in danger 99Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night. 99You find pornography on your child’s computer. 99Your child receives phone calls from strangers or is making calls to numbers you don’t recognize. 99Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know. 99Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen when you come into the room. 99Your child becomes withdrawn from the family. (Source: Federal Bureau of Investgation [FBI]) 19

Resources Organizations

Enough is Enough 888.744.0004 www.enough.org

National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families 513.521.6227 www.nationalcoalition.org

Focus on the Family 800.A.FAMILY www.family.org

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 800.THE.LOST www.missingkids.com

Massachusetts Family Institute 781.569.0400 www.mafamily.org

Informative Web Links

NetSmartz Workshop – www.netsmartz.org SafeKids.com – www.safekids.com SafeTeens.com – www.safeteens.com F.B.I. – www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm Love Our Children USA – www.loveourchildrenusa.org iSAFE – www.isafe.org Wired Safety – www.wiredsafety.org iKeepSafe Coalition – www.ikeepsafe.org GetNetWise – www.getnetwise.org CyberBully – www.cyberbully.org Sexting is Stupid - www.sextingisstupid.com


CyberPatrol – www.cyberpatrol.com Cyber Sentinel – www.securitysoft.com Cybersitter – www.cybersitter.com Family Connection – www.familyconnect.com KidsNet – www.kidsnet.com Net Nanny – www.netnanny.com We-Blocker – www.we-blocker.com Wise Choice – www.wisechoice.net

Family-Based, Filtered ISPs


Covenant Promotions – www.covpro.net Internet-4-Families – www.i4f.com Integrity Online – www.integrity.com Northern Trail – www.northerntrail.net PKFamily.com – www.pkfamily.com Safe Browse – www.safebrowse.com

Monitoring and Tracking Software IAmBigBrother - www.iambigbrother.com SniperSpy - www.sniperspy.com WebWatcher - www.webwatcherkids.com

Massachusetts Family Institute Massachusetts Family Institute is a non-profit research and education organization dedicated to strengthening the family. MFI informs policy leaders, elected officials, the media, religious leaders and citizens on a wide range of public policy issues affecting families in the Commonwealth. The Guide to Internet & Cell Phone Safety is a tool intended to outline some of the dangers and merits of the Internet and to assist parents in helping their children negotiate the Internet in a safe and effective way. Massachusetts Family Institute was founded in 1990 to be a voice for traditional families in the Commonwealth. MFI is supported by the generosity of its supporters and people like you. To receive additional copies of this guide or learn more about MFI, please call 781.569.0400. To request a staff member to speak to a school, church or community group about Internet Safety, please call 781.569.0400 or send an e-mail to info@mafamily.org. Kris Mineau President Ryan F. Boehm Director of Communications and Research

Massachusetts Family Institute 100 Sylvan Road, Suite 625 Woburn, MA 01801 p: 781.569.0400 f: 781.569.0472 info@mafamily.org - www.mafamily.org

Credits: Special thanks and acknowledgement to Georgia Family Council and Pennsylvania Family Institute for portions of the content found in this guide.

Š 2010, Massachusetts Family Institute 21

Profile for Massachusetts Family Institute

Guide to Internet & Cell Phone Safety  

Massachusetts Family Institute developed the Guide to Internet & Cell Phone Safety to educate parents and protect children and teenagers fro...

Guide to Internet & Cell Phone Safety  

Massachusetts Family Institute developed the Guide to Internet & Cell Phone Safety to educate parents and protect children and teenagers fro...