Internet Security & Safety

Online Risks

Before spending valuable learning time on activities to reduce child victimization online, it is important to understand the need for this information. Children of all ages are flocking to the Internet. Forty-five percent of children in the United States more than 30 million of those younger than 18 use the Internet.1

It is important to note the types of dangers that children may be susceptible to on the Internet. In addition to the useful and educational information available on the Internet, a great deal of content exists that is not appropriate for children. This content can include nudity or other sexually explicit material; hate group or racist web sites; promotional material about tobacco, alcohol, or drugs; graphic violence; information on satanic or cult groups; or even recipes for making bombs or other explosives.2

Unfortunately child pornography is frequently exchanged via the Internet, and sexual predators can use the Internet to try to reach out to children for sexual purposes. Children could be targets of cyberstalking or harassment that includes repeated and unwanted contact through the Internet that is rude or threatening. Also, people can send viruses to other computers that could damage or destroy your hard drive.3

Other Internet dangers to children include sexual exploitation or enticement. Sexual predators may target children online while maintaining relative anonymity. The nature of online interaction facilitates deception about the predator\'s identity, age, and intentions. Millions of children online form a large pool from which predators can select victims.4 Thus parents and educators need to carefully supervise children\'s activities while they are on the Internet.

Sexual predators frequent various chatrooms looking for children. These predators target likely victims; make contact; and work to develop friendship, emotional reliance, and interest in sexual topics. He or she may initiate offline sexual relations quickly or spend months "grooming" the child towards a sexual relationship. Sexual predators may use material goods, such as compact disks and games, to attract children offline. There have been cases in which predators have sent children bus tickets or money to cover the cost of travel or traveled to meet children.5

The natural characteristics of children may facilitate victimization. Children of all ages have a lack of emotional maturity that can make them more susceptible to manipulation or intimidation. Also they have a strong desire for attention, validation, and affection along with a lack of caution or self-preservation. Children are taught to obey adult requests and demands and may be less likely to know when it isn\'t appropriate to do so. In addition, children are naturally curious about sex and other "forbidden" topics. It is important to note that children also may be hesitant to tell a trusted adult if they are approached in an inappropriate way, because of a feeling of embarrassment or the stigma of being a "tattletale."6

It is also important to note that children may become involved in criminal activity on the Internet. Children can be the perpetrators in sexual exploitation or harassment cases. Other crimes that children may engage in include sending viruses, hacking, gambling, the illegal purchase or distribution of narcotics and weapons, fraud, and the illegal copying of software or other copyrighted material.

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