Visiting the World Wide Web
The Internet has literally opened up a world of information, education and communication possibilities. It allows us to book travel reservations, read news from around the world, shop, buy and sell items, and communicate with friends all from the comfort of home, work or even our favorite coffee shop. For most people using the Internet has become a part of daily life and is a positive and safe experience.
However, the Internet is also a place where predators lurk, waiting for their next victim. A great deal of content exists online is not appropriate for children. This content can include nudity or other sexually explicit material; hate or racist web sites; promotional material about tobacco, alcohol, or drugs; graphic violence; information about satanic or cult groups; or even recipes for making bombs and explosives at home. Theft of personal information is also a growing problem. It is important to check the legitimacy of a web site before giving out personal information, including your name, social-security number, address, telephone number, and credit-card numbers.
For law enforcement, we must consider the dark side of the internet when we are confronted with the daunting task of responding to parents whose young son or daughter has gone missing. Because of technology and the Internet, we must always consider the possibility that any child who goes missing "may" have met up with someone they initially encountered online.
- Ninety percent of Internet initiated cases of child sexual abuse involved children 13 through 16.
- Only 25% of the youth who encountered a sexual solicitation or approach told a parent
- Less than 10% of sexual solicitations were reported to authorities such as a law- enforcement agency, an Internet Service Provider, or a hotline
- Establish Rules for Internet Use
- Know what apps your child may have on their phone or tablet. Many apps are used to 'meet' online.
- Keep the computer in a common room (not your child's bedroom or other room the whole family does not frequently access) and monitor what your child is doing on their phone or tablet.
- Discuss with your child the importance of telling you or a trusted adult if something ever makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused while online.
- Communicate with your child and react calmly if your child shares information that scares or makes you uncomfortable so they feel comfortable confiding in you.
- Learn everything you can about your computer or any apps your child may have on their phone or tablet, including what services (parental controls and filtering options) your internet service provider (ISP) offers, chat room lingo, how to check history and what other internet access your child may have including text messaging or social apps.
- Consider safeguarding such as using parental controls and filtering, blocking and monitoring software and apps.
- Report any incidents of child sexual exploitation to the CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678 and your local law enforcement agency.
- Know who your children talk to online and what their screen name is and know their social media passwords. This is extremely important in the event your child is missing.
- Talk to your children about what "personal information" is and make sure they don't share that with anyone.
- Find out what sites your children visit online and what apps they have downloaded onto phones or tablets. Supervise their Internet usage.
- Find out what other places your child may have access to the Internet (school, library, friend's house).
Cell Phone Dangers
Today’s cell phones are not just mobile telephones; they’re also web browsers, instant messengers, and E-mail terminals. In other words, just about everything you can do from an Internet-connected personal computer, you can also do from a cellular telephone. Text-messaging allows users to send and receive short messages through their cellular telephones. There are also multiple apps for 'meeting' online. Remember everyone online is a stranger. Users of all ages need to be extremely cautious about the way they use this new cell phone technology, especially when it comes to sharing digital photographs or movies. Pushing a few telephone buttons can send an image, telephone number, and mobile E-mail address to the wrong person. It’s even possible to use your cell phone to instantly post photographs on the web for all to see.
Internet Safety Tips for Kids
- Don't give out or post personal information (name, address, age, school name or address, phone number, parent's names).
- Do NOT respond to mean, offensive, threatening or unwanted e-mail or instant messages.
- Choose a screen name that doesn't identify you as a boy or girl.
- Don't share your password with anyone but your parents (not even your best friend should know your password).
- Remember people online MAY NOT be who they say they are. Treat people online that you don't personally know as a stranger.
NetSmartz® is an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® and Boys & Girls Clubs of America for children (ages 5-17), parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet. The NetSmartz Workshop can be accessed at www.NetSmartz.org and www.NetSmartzKids.org.
Internet Safety for Adults
Buying and selling items such as appliances, vehicles, and electronics through online classifieds is a normal occurrence in today's tech world, but it's important to keep old fashioned personal safety at the top of the list.
That's why the Vancouver Police Department and Clark County Sheriff's Office offer their parking lots as Safe Exchange Zones as an alternative to meeting a stranger at a private residence or unfamiliar location.
The following location parking lots are designated and signed as Safe Exchange Zones:
- Vancouver Police Administration (605 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, WA)
- Vancouver Police West Precinct (2800 NE Stapleton Rd., Vancouver, WA)
- Vancouver Police East Precinct (512 SE 155th Ave., Vancouver, WA)
- Clark County Sheriff’s West Precinct (505 NW 179th St., Ridgefield, WA)
- Clark County Sheriff’s Office Central Precinct (11608 NE 149th St., Brush Prairie, WA)
Cyber Crime Resources
For victims of Internet crime, reporting it is just the first step. What's next? Who can you turn to for help? This website is a one-stop resource for free information on what victims can do in the aftermath of an online crime, and, more importantly, how they can prevent it in the future. Having the right information is vital to making your voice heard. Visit Victim Voice for resources specifically for victims of cyber crime and for those that want additional crime prevention tools.