Stop worrying and start doing something! There are plenty of precautions you can take to protect children from internet predators.
Step 1: Warn children of dangers Warn children about the dangers of giving personal information to strangers, and emphasize that they should never agree to meet someone in person that they've only met online. Explain how easy it is for anyone to lie about their identities and post a phony picture of themselves.
Step 2: Tell them you'll be watching Tell your children you plan to spot-check their computer; it may prompt them to self-monitor. Consider keeping their computer in a family room so you can more easily keep an eye on their online activities.
Step 3: Restrict their access Use parental controls to restrict your child's internet access. Most internet service providers offer a range of features -- like the ability to block certain web sites -- and many of them are free. You can also purchase blocking and filtering software.
Step 4: Consider blocking chat rooms Consider blocking access to chat rooms entirely. They are one of the most likely places your child will encounter a pedophile online. And if they're old enough to use social-networking sites, remind them to adjust the privacy settings so their profile can only be seen by trusted people they know.
TIP: Law enforcement officials say evening is when predators are most actively pursuing children online.
Step 5: Record their activity Periodically check their browser history so you know which sites they've visited. Consider installing recording software that keeps a record of everything that's been sent, received, downloaded, and viewed.
Step 6: Limit e-mail Use parental controls to limit e-mail with offensive language from being sent and received. If your child is under 12, consider having all their e-mails routed through your account.
Step 7: Call the police Call the police, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if your child is sent pornography or is sexually solicited by someone on the internet.
FACT: Most internet sexual predators target adolescents, as opposed to prepubescent children.