Thanks to a grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Westfield Washington Public Library was able to purchase two new internet computer stations for our Children’s Department. They are loaded with educational games and a child-friendly, safe internet browser. This internet browser software is available to our patrons to install on their home computers. We will also be conducting a program to teach children how to make safe decisions online.
The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) was signed into law September 30, 1996 as part of the Museum and Library Services Act. As a result, federal LSTA funds are distributed from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to states for the purposes of increasing the use of technology in libraries, fostering better resource sharing among libraries, and targeting library services to special populations. The portion of the grant we received is administered by the Indiana State Library (ISL).
WWPL will be using the LSTA grant funds to help meet the following need from Indiana’s Five-Year Plan: “The academic success of Indiana’s students and knowledge of its citizens in general can be strengthened by supporting electronic information resources, including statewide access to electronic databases, and resource sharing.” The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.
An Introduction to Online Safety for Children
There are many benefits to using the internet. When kids use the Internet the educational advantages are endless. The Internet is used by schools, universities, libraries, businesses and more. The Internet is a virtual encyclopedia.
You don’t have to be a computer geek to use the Internet. It is incredibly easy. Use it for homework, communicating with friends, computer games, on-line games, shopping and even business. Many schools now use the computer as a way to communicate to families. Parents can access their child’s grades, class assignments and attendance. Upcoming events, announcements and individual school calendars are also posted on their school webpage as well as their school profile.
Any child who is old enough to punch in a few letters on the keyboard can literally access the world. With all the wonderful advantages the computer and Internet offers, it is important for parents to know Internet safety. The Internet gives great benefits to everyone…most of all children. And with all of its advantages, it has disadvantages which can create dangers for children.
It is critical that every parent and every childcare giver know everything there is to know about the Internet and the possible hazards it creates for children. Learn how to deal with them…learn the Internet rules. There are lots of “rules” on how kids (and parents) can use the Internet but the most important rule is that parents and kids agree to a set of criteria.
According to a new survey commissioned by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications, only about half of the parents surveyed were monitoring their kids’ online activity daily or weekly. The other half of the parents said that they don’t have or don’t know if they have software on their computer(s) capable of monitoring where their teens go online or with whom they interact. Additional findings include:
• 42% of parents don’t review the content that their teen(s) are reading and/or writing in chat rooms or instant messages;
• 28% of parents don’t know if their teens are speaking with strangers online; • 30% of parents let their teens use computers in private areas of the home (e.g. bedroom, office).
• Parents are not familiar with the most common IM shorthand/lingo, i.e. :
o 57% of parents don’t know LOL (laughing out loud)
o 68% don’t know BRB (be right back)
o 92% were unaware that A/S/L means age/sex/location
o 95% of parents weren’t familiar with POS (parents over shoulder) and P911 (parent alert)
By taking responsibility for your children’s online computer use, parents can greatly minimize any potential risks of being online. Make it a family rule to:
• Never give out identifying information — home address, school name, or telephone number — in a public message such as chat or bulletin boards, and be sure you’re dealing with someone that both you and your child know and trust before giving it out via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or unlisting your child’s name if your service allows it.
• Get to know the services your child uses. If you don’t know how to log on, get your child to show you. Find out what types of information it offers and whether there are ways for parents to block out objectionable material.
• Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot with a parent present!
• Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.
• Immediately report the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843-5678 or visiting the CyberTipLine online. You should also notify your online service.
• Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can’t see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself. Thus, someone indicating that “she” is a “12-year-old girl” could in reality be a 40-year-old man.
• Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that’s “too good to be true” probably is. Be very careful about any offers that involve you coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
• Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer. A child or teenager’s excessive use of online services or bulletin boards, especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem. Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.
• Be sure to make this a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child’s bedroom. Get to know their “online friends” just as you get to know all of their other friends.
• Share an email account with your child so you can monitor messages.
• Bookmark kids’ favorite sites for easy access.
• Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
• Find out what online protection is offered by your child’s school, after-school center, friends’ homes, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
Spam is unsolicited email. It can be annoying and sometimes offensive. Parents should discuss with their kids who they are sending and receiving emails from. One of the best ways to deal with spam is to not open it and delete it.
Check out merchants privacy policies when purchasing something over the web. When in chat rooms, your child should not allow their personal profile to be published and should not give out their email address … nor should they ever allow email addresses to be posted on any web site. They should remain as anonymous as possible.
If you have younger children, set up a list of people they can send and receive emails from and block the rest. Ask your Internet Service Provider how to do this. Firewall and anti-spam software programs are other ways to keep out unwanted emails and spam. You can also set up a spam email address in addition to your regular email address. Give those close to you your private email address and all others the spam email address.
Child Protection Safety Measures
Kids are very computer savvy and can pretty much figure out protective software, security measures, password changes, etc. If you have computer passwords and PIN numbers, measures should be taken to protect those at all costs.
Sometimes protective software can be disabled. Be sure that it isn’t switched off. Check that security systems and additional internet accounts have not been added to your computer and that previously installed software hasn’t been blocked or diverted.
Signs that indicate your children are being abused online:
• If your child becomes secretive about their time online
• Uses computers in other than their own such as at homes of friends, Internet cafes, or libraries
• Uses encryption software
• Downloads files onto discs where you cannot see information
• Displays changes in behavior or acts out sexually
• Becomes withdrawn and loses self-esteem
• If your phone bill or child’s cell phone bill is unusually high
• You see unfamiliar phone numbers on your bill (800 numbers do not appear on phone bills)
• Your child disappears while talking on their cell phone
Note: Kids may hesitate to give out their home numbers but will almost always give out their cell phone numbers. Pedophiles will call and send text messages directly to children.
Internet Safety Laws
A federal law has been created to help protect your kids while they are using the Internet. It is designed to keep anyone from obtaining your kids’ personal information without you knowing about it and agreeing to it first.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) requires websites to explain their privacy policies on the site and get parents’ consent before collecting or using a child’s personal information, such as a name, address, phone number, or social security number. The law also prohibits a site from requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a game or contest.
The University of Dayton has recently published an article titled “How Much Privacy Do You Have Online?“. This article provides definitions for what classifies as privacy and personal information, ways to take charge of your privacy, and information on what the future holds for privacy regulations.