Pedophiles existed before the Internet, and the vast majority of people who contact your children over the Internet are not pedophiles. But the danger is real. Sexual predators use the Internet to find their young prey, then lure them to a meeting in the far more dangerous real world.
Sometimes they even cross state lines to do their damage. An IndyChannel news report told of a man from Maryland who extorted an Indiana teen into having sex with him. He was caught, but after he was released on bond, he "coerced girls in Florida, Kansas and Maryland into various acts…"
As a parent, your best defense against such a nightmare is to discuss these issues openly with your child and teenager. Let them know that these people are out there, and to be wary of people they meet on the Internet. Remind them how little privacy there is on the Internet, and that anything they send to a trusted friend might one day end up in the hands of gossips, bullies, and worse. And let them know that you remember what it was like to be a teenager, and understand the sort of mistakes that young people make. In other words, let them know that they can trust you with these sorts of problems.
But until you feel they are mature enough for you to trust them, you need to take additional precautions. Keep the computer in a public room, like the living room or kitchen, and don't let the kids take a laptop into their bedroom. Use either Trend Micro Titanium's Parental Controls (available in the Internet Security and Maximum Security editions), or Trend Micro's Online Guardian. Either one can monitor your children's online activities, protect them from inappropriate websites, and control how much time they spend online. In addition, Online Guardian can keep you informed about what your kids are up to on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
This story, "Sexual Predators, Your Children, and the Internet" was originally published by BrandPost.