Is That A Monster in the Garb of an Old Lady Chatting Up Your Child?

We all grew up listening to the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” with emotions which are a mixture of fear mingled with fascination. We wondered how the wolf quietly kept track of her destination, how it didn’t attack her when the woodcutters were present but waited for her in her Grandma’s home, pretending to be the old lady. No wonder the innocent child was truly foxed.

Today, when kids chat with strangers on the net, I remember this story, and draw many parallels from it. We caution kids about the dangers on the road, but don’t prepare them about dangers posed by people online. The online predators can masquerade as harmless people, wean out information from unsuspecting kids and then lure them into their traps. They are the real wolves in Grandma’s garb that we have got to teach our kids to beware of!

My experiences as a Mom and then as McAfee Cybermum India, has opened my eyes to potential dangers lurking on the net for vulnerable kids. Take the example of chat rooms.

There are various ways your child can converse with cyber citizens- starting from the innocuous online gaming sites where they might discuss how to form alliances and conquer kingdoms, to seedy sites where people enter just to talk dirty. In between, there are some very valuable and authentic chat rooms that supplies you with answers to queries that you might have (My computer isn’t working. Can you help?); help you through support groups and even help introverts make good friends.

Then there are the chat rooms I would rather kids kept away from. These include:

  • Chatrooms with webcams or videos-Highly dangerous
  • Romance or dating Chat rooms: Frequented by the youth and even seniors in search of partners-good hunting ground for online predators and scammers
  • Religious, self help groups, depression and suicide helplines: Often children resort to sharing their woes with a third person with whom they can connect better.

It’s not always easy to explain to kids why these chat rooms are unsafe and why they should never venture there. Their natural curiosity will drive them to investigate forbidden sites sometimes or the others. We’ve all been kids, we know. So what should you do, as a parent, to ensure your child can continue surfing without falling victim to a chat room predator?

  • Install the most advanced security software you can, which offers total family protection. My McAfee Total protection allows me to regulate the sites my kids can visit and content they can be exposed to. It sends me remote alert if strangers try to contact them or if inappropriate words are exchanged during any chats
  • Set rules for surfing: For pre-teens and teens, there should be strict norms about chatting. I would advice banning chats for below 13 and allowing older kids to chat only with known people and that too only on FB and Yahoo or Gmail chat.
  • Strictly rule out access to ALT chat rooms for minors: If your child feels he or she is different, talk to him/her and if necessary consult a counselor. But there is no reason for the child to seek guidance from online chat site friends.
  • Teach kids not to share real name, address, age, photographs on a chat room: As I keep reiterating, these are favourite hunting grounds for cyber predators. They groom the young ones, earn their trust and then invite them to meet somewhere, alone
  • Teach kids to stay in charge of the chat: the chats should not be allowed to become too personal or dirty. If this happens, they should immediately stop chatting, take a copy of the conversation in chat and sign out.

The most important thing is that you MUST treat your kids as responsible, trustworthy beings. Along with protecting them from dangers online, you must also prepare them to face such dangers and handle them. They should be aware of the danger and know what to do in such circumstances. That is what good cyber parenting is all about.

You could visit and learn more on how to strengthen the bond between you and kids.

Happy safe surfing folks!!

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Story added 24. May 2012, content source with full text you can find at link above.