If you are a parent, as am I, I think we can agree there is
little else more important than keeping our children safe
and protected. It’s difficult enough keeping them safe from
the unscrupulous people we read about in the news, but
dealing with children and the Internet takes it to a
completely new level.
Many young people find instant messaging and e-mail a
convenient and fun way to talk with their friends. If you
have children, like me, when they’re not on the phone,
they’re talking with their friends on the Internet. We have
very strict rules and guidelines about who they can talk
with and for how long. We have given them detailed
instructions on what to do when they receive e-mail from
someone they don’t know or receive an anonymous instant
Recently, someone close to me received a death threat via an
anonymous instant message. The language this person used was
so vulgar and explicit you would have thought it came from a
prison inmate. Interestingly enough, the person at the other
end was a child.
After significant investigation we determined this person
was a school mate. They had received detailed information about
the child including the child’s instant messenger alias,
their home address and color, and what type of cars the
family drove. Can you imagine how scared this child and
child’s family was? Quite frankly, it was not only sad but
sickening that another child could be so verbally brutal.
Additional investigation revealed that the school these
children go to were aware that this had been going on for
quite some time. Other children had been receiving
This particular event was all the result of several children
speaking in a chat roam and one child in particular got
upset about something that was said. That child contacted
another child, who is known to be mean, and asked them to
scare one of the other children. We got to the bottom of the
whole mess and everyone felt a bit of relief.
It’s very important to pay attention and, in some cases,
monitor what children are doing on the Internet. It’s for
their protection and the protection of others. I’m sure I am
going to get an ear full from privacy rights advocates on
this one. Regardless, the safety of our children is one of
the most important tasks a parent has.
If your children use e-mail and Instant Messaging on a
regular basis you should;
1) Limit the number of people they can e-mail and message with;
2) Work with them to develop an approved list of friends;
3) Limit the amount of the time they spend e-mailing and
4) Make your presence known while they are e-mailing or
5) If necessary install some sort of monitoring software to see
what is going on in chat rooms.
Update: Shortly after writing this article, a 13 year old
boy at a middle school in my area was arrested for e-mailing
death threats to two teachers. In one e-mail he indicated he
was planning on bringing a gun to school to kill a teacher.
The other e-mail, sent to a teacher at a different school,
indicated that he planned on targeting students as well. For
further details please see the full article at South
Florida’s Sun Sentinel “http://www.sun-sentinel.com/
For information on computer monitoring software take a look
at WatchRight http://www.watchright.com/.
A good site to visit to learn more about protecting children
on the Internet is http://www.protectkids.com. It’s full of great
information every parent should know. Other sites you may
want to visit are http://www.isafe.org/, and
Obscenity Crimes Reporting http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/.