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Council of Better Business Bureaus
Internet Basics

business man shaking handsDepending on the ages of your children, they may be spending anywhere from two (2) to seven and a half (71/2) hours a day on the Internet. Whether they are young children playing simple games, or older ones doing research for school, socializing through email or social networking sites, or playing more sophisticated games online, most children are on the Internet at least some time every day.

Less than a generation ago, the Internet was available solely through computers. Today, it can be accessed through mobile phones and game consoles, as well as the computer. Doubtless, devices and applications will continue to be developed that will allow faster and easier access to the Internet.

The Internet is a double-edged sword for children. It opens new worlds to them: they can learn about numerous subjects, get help with homework and make new friends. Children can keep in touch with friends and family, no matter where they live. They can even share pictures and videos, on cell phones as well as on computers. New advances even allow users to speak to and see each other in real time online.

Risks of the Internet

The opportunities offered by the Internet, however, also make children vulnerable to certain risks. Many children (and even some adults) do not understand the consequences of disclosing personal information, such as full name, address, email address, phone number, cell phone number, social security number or other information that allows them to be contacted online or offline.

For example, submitting personal information to a website operator for registration purposes will allow the operator and anyone with whom he shares that information to contact a child, or the child’s parents, with unwanted marketing solicitations. In addition, children’s use of the Internet, whether on computers, cell phones or other devices, without parental supervision, can lead to exposure to inappropriate information, spreading gossip and inappropriate pictures, bullying, stalking, and even overtures from predators. Remember, the ability to post personal information in chat rooms, forums or other groups allows anyone on the site to see that information and contact your child.

Using Parental Filters

One thing parents can do is use filters and parental settings on home computers. Remember, however, that when your children go online at their friends’ homes, those computers may not have the same filters and settings. Equally important, the filters on your home’s computer do not extend to your child’s mobile phone. Find out what limits and security are available for your child’s mobile phone from your mobile phone service provider, and think about turning off web access features or turning on filtering features.