Online Safety: An Introduction
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Online Safety: an Introduction

Web Surfing as a Family Adventure

Yahoo is committed to helping create a safe online experience. With your child in mind, Yahoo has created Yahoo Kids and built safety features into many of its services. Yahoo also complies with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law designed to protect children under the age of 13 online.

But as a parent or caregiver, only you can judge what constitutes a positive and educational online experience for your child. You need to take an active role in assessing when and where your child uses the Internet and what he or she does while online.

Parenting for the online world is very similar to parenting in the real world. Don't let your child go anywhere unsupervised until you’re sure he or she can handle it properly. Don't allow your child to talk to strangers, especially if you're not around. And try to keep an eye on how he or she is spending free time and with whom.

Create a basic safety foundation for your child online by emphasizing two rules: Do not give out any personal information online, and do not set up face-to-face meetings with anyone without a parent's permission.

Before Your Child Goes Online:

  • Learn about the Web. Take a course or ask a knowledgeable friend or relative. Become familiar with how to sign on to web sites, search for information online, and use communication tools such as email and instant messages. Yahoo Help can guide you through using many Yahoo products, and Yahoo Safely’s Parents Guide discusses some risks and safety features of specific products that your child is likely to use.
  • Decide where to put your child’s computer. Place the computer that your child uses in the most public area of your home, so you can monitor activity. If your child has access to laptops and cell phones that can access the Internet, establish rules about when and where your child may be online.
  • Parental control software. Familiarize yourself with parental control software and any control features of your online service or ISP. Some programs allow you to filter specific sites, a group of sites that the software deems inappropriate, or sites with inappropriate keywords in them. But remember that software is not a substitute for true parental supervision.
  • Create a Family Pledge for Online Safety. This pledge should clearly state what your child is and is not allowed to do online. Involve your child in the creation of the pledge, both as an opportunity to talk about the issues that will arise and as a way to get his or her input. With a little awareness and preparation, you can minimize the risks involved in letting your child interact with others online.

When Your Child is Online

  • Create a user ID. To use many web sites, including some Yahoo sites, you must first register. Learn how to create a safe online ID.
  • Keep passwords private. If a password gets into the wrong hands, you could be locked out of your own account, fall victim to identity theft, or be subject to harassment. “Phishing” is a common ploy used to gain access to online accounts by trying to trick you into giving out your password and other personal information. Learn more about password "phishing" scams. Yahoo will never ask for a password or other personal information by email. Beware of fake emails that make such requests. Also, learn how to choose a password.
  • Protect personal information. Teach your child about the importance of safeguarding his or her identity by not posting personal information online. Personal details such as last name, address, phone numbers, school name, date of birth, and photos can be used to identify a child or teenager in real life. To further protect personal information, learn about the role of web sites’ privacy policies.
  • Beware of strangers. When chatting online, playing games, or posting messages, keep in mind that you never know the people you are communicating with. Your child should use caution when approached by someone unknown, just as in real life. Instruct your child to reject invitations from unknown users and never respond to email or instant messages that make him or her feel uncomfortable. And to tell a parent about any personal or sexual questions from a stranger online. Many Yahoo services also allow you to block or ignore specific users. Choose a specific service to learn how to set up this blocking.
  • Beware of requests for in-person meetings. Your child should never arrange a face-to-face meeting with an online acquaintance without involving you. The Internet can be a great way for your child to meet people with similar interests, but unfortunately, people are not always who they seem or say they are.
  • Be aware of cyberbullying. Adults pose a risk to your child online, but so do other kids. Your child might receive unkind messages online from his or her peers. Or a classmate might pretend to be your child and post false information or unflattering photos on a web site. This is the online version of the bullying that goes on in kids’ real lives. As a parent, you should keep communication open with your child so that you can help out when such situations occur.

Most importantly, spend time with your child looking at web sites — it can offer a window into his or her interests, concerns, and ways of thinking. Enjoy this opportunity to have some fun together, while explaining what is and isn't appropriate behavior, and why. Make it enjoyable and productive time so that in the future, your child will feel comfortable sharing both good and bad online experiences with you.

Even if your child follows all of these precautions, he or she might still encounter inappropriate material or receive unpleasant messages from other users. If such inappropriate or sexually suggestive language, hate speech, or harassment occurs on Yahoo, please report abuse to the service your child was using.

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