Washington, July 13 : With instances of teen exploitation on the net increasing day by day, a researcher has come with a list of suggestions on how to keep teens safe from internet risks.
Katie Plax, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine and director of the Adolescent Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital said that the negative experiences associated with Internet use should not deter teens from using this resource; however, negative experiences should serve as warnings of situations to avoid while on-line.
In fact, Plax offered a few Internet safety concerns that include privacy, Cyber-bullying, social isolation, solicitation/exposure to inappropriate material, physical endangerment.
There's a risk to teenagers' privacy as they may inadvertently reveal personal identifying information while in chat rooms or when attempting to gain access to certain Web sites that require registration prior to use. They may also give out credit card information on unsecured sites when making purchases.
Teens may be harassed, threatened, embarrassed or have rumors spread about them via email, chat rooms or Internet Web pages.
Teens spending excessive amounts of time on the Internet may have limited interaction with family and friends. This may lead to underdeveloped face-to-face communication skills.
Teens may be exposed to sexually explicit, violent and antisocial information on the Internet. For example, some Web sites promote eating disorders; the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs; teach hate; or provide instruction on how to build bombs. Seventy percent of adolescents age 15 - 17 said they unintentionally encountered pornography while surfing the Web. Teens also may receive sexual solicitation while in chat rooms; 20 percent of adolescents receive at least one sexual solicitation per year while online.
Teens, especially females, are the most targeted by child predators. Teens sharing personal information or agreeing to meet someone in person they encounter on-line may result in abduction, physical and/or sexual abuse.
"Keeping teens safe on-line takes a collective effort by parents, educational providers and health care providers. Parents who are not familiar with computers and using the Internet should be encouraged to become more familiar with them," said Plax.
She also suggested that parents should adopt some tactics to help keep their teens safe online. They should establish clear rules for Internet use and develop an Internet safety contract with their teen and keep the computer in a public place in the house.
Parents should use an Internet filtering device to limit access to inappropriate sites and remind teens that the Internet is a public place and to keep their identity private and not share personal information.
They should also instruct teens to never use their or their parents' credit card on-line without permission and instruct teens to never arrange face-to-face meetings with a person they have met on-line.
Teens should be discouraged from speaking rudely or spreading rumours about others on-line and at the same time should be encouraged to speak with an adult if they encounter a Web site or have an experience on-line that makes them feel uncomfortable
Parents should make it a point to establish an open line of communication with teens to discuss the activities they enjoy on-line and about the people they talk to or meet while on-line.
"Overall, the Internet is a beneficial resource for adolescents. However, it is important to remember there are no censors on the Internet. Any person, organization or company can create a Web site and distribute information, whether positive or negative," said Plax.