WebMD Feature Archive
Four dangers of the Internet
Protect your children from cyber bullying and exposure to sexual predators with these Internet safety tips from the experts.
More and more children are being targeted by bullies who use technology like
e-mails, websites and text messages, reported the BBC’s children’s news
programme, “Newsround”, in 2006. It quoted a “four-year survey of more
than 11,000 children” which it said, “found nearly 15% had received nasty or
In 2008 British newspapers reported on a tragic tale of 13-year-old Sam
Leeson who allegedly hanged himself after being bullied for his taste in music
and “alternative” clothes on a social networking site. His father,
Christopher, pleaded with other victims of cyber-bulling not to give in.
"Please talk to someone. Change your e-mail address and change your mobile”, he
was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph.
No doubt, the Internet can be an extremely useful tool for young people. But
instant messaging, chat rooms, e-mails and social networking sites can also
bring trouble - from cyber bullying to more serious Internet dangers, including
exposure to sexual predators.
How streetwise are you about keeping your child or teenager safe online?
Follow these tips to protect your children from the 4 major dangers of the
Internet danger no.1: cyber bullying
On the Internet “you can receive unwanted and nasty e-mails," warns
Kidscape, a charity with the motto “preventing bullying, protecting
children”. In addition you can “have something posted on a web site about
Cyber bullying takes various forms, says Netsmartz411.org, an online
resource that educates parents about Internet safety. Cyber bullying includes
sending hateful messages or even death threats to children, spreading lies
about them online, making nasty comments on their social networking profiles,
or creating a website to make fun of their appearance or harm their
Some cyber bullies pose as their victims and send out harassing messages to
others. Recently, cyber bullies have also begun posting humiliating videos of
other children they dislike, says Parry Aftab, a cyberspace security and
privacy lawyer who also serves as executive director of WiredSafety.org, one of
the largest Internet safety education groups in the world.
In the age of YouTube, a website that hosts videos shot by users, "Children
are looking for their 15 megabytes of fame," Aftab says. "They do it to show
that they're big enough, popular enough, cool enough to get away with it."
Often, children don't tell parents they're being cyber bullied; they're
afraid their parents will overreact or take away Internet privileges, Aftab
adds. Her advice? If your son or daughter tells you, stay calm. If it's a
one-time thing, try to ignore the bully and block future contact, she says. But
if the cyber bullying involves any physical threat, you may need to call the
Some tips from Netsmartz.org for responding to cyber bullying:
- To keep others from using their e-mail and Internet accounts, children
should never share Internet passwords with anyone other than parents, experts
- If children are harassed or bullied through instant messaging, help them
use the "block" or "ban" feature to prevent the bully from contacting
- If a child keeps getting harassing e-mails, delete that e-mail account and
set up a new one. Remind your child to give the new e-mail address only to
family and a few trusted friends.
- Tell your child not to respond to rude or harassing e-mails, messages and
postings. If the cyber bullying continues, call the police. Keep a record of
the e-mails as proof.