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June is Internet Safety Month

School is out, and that means more Haywood County children will be home for longer periods of time and possibly using the Internet.

In May 2007, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 205, naming June National Internet Safety Month to raise awareness about threats posed by the Internet and encourage safe and responsible Internet usage. Following are some tips for parents and other guardians for talking to children about Internet safety, provided by the U.S. Computer Emergency Management Team:

  1. Be involved - Consider activities you can work on together, whether it be playing a game, researching a topic you had been talking about (e.g., family vacation spots, a particular hobby, a historical figure), or putting together a family newsletter. This will allow you to supervise your child's online activities while teaching her good computer habits.

  2. Keep your computer in an open area - If your computer is in a high-traffic area, you will be able to easily monitor the computer activity. Not only does this accessibility deter children from doing something they know they are not allowed to do, it also gives you the opportunity to intervene if you notice a behavior that could have negative consequences.

  3. Set rules and warn about dangers - Make sure your child knows the boundaries of what she is allowed to do on the computer. These boundaries should be appropriate for the child's age, knowledge, and maturity, but they may include rules about how long she is allowed to be on the computer, what sites she is allowed to visit, what software programs she can use, and what tasks or activities she is allowed to do. You should also talk to children about the dangers of the internet so that they recognize suspicious behavior or activity. The goal isn't to scare them, it's to make them more aware.
  4. Monitor computer activity - Be aware of what your children are doing on the computer, including which web sites they are visiting. If they are using email, instant messaging, or chat rooms, try to get a sense of who they are corresponding with and whether they actually know them.
  5. Keep lines of communication open - Let your children know that they can approach you with any questions or concerns about behaviors or problems they may have encountered on the computer.
  6. Consider partitioning your computer into separate accounts - Most operating systems (including Windows XP, Mac OS X, and Linux) give you the option of creating a different user account for each user. If you're worried that your children may accidentally access, modify, and/or delete your files, you can give them a separate account and decrease the amount of access and number of privileges they have.

    If you don't have separate accounts, you need to be especially careful about your security settings. In addition to limiting functionality within your browser (see Evaluating Your Web Browser's Security Settings for more information), avoid letting your browser remember passwords and other personal information (see Browsing Safely: Understanding Active Content and Cookies). Also, it is always important to keep your virus definitions up to date (see Understanding Anti-Virus Software).
  7. Consider implementing parental controls - You may be able to set some parental controls within your browser. For example, Internet Explorer allows you to restrict or allow certain web sites to be viewed on your computer, and you can protect these settings with a password. To find those options, click Tools on your menu bar, select Internet Options..., choose the Content tab, and click the Enable... button under Content Advisor.

In recognition of this year's Internet Safety Month, the federal Office of Justice Programs' (OJP's) National Criminal Justice Reference Service is offering a comprehensive list of resources on Internet safety, including a special section on Internet Safety for Children.

If you discover any internet activity that causes you concern, please contact Detective James Marsh with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office at 828-452-6669, ext. 2933.