The Kirkland Lake Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) remind parents that they have an important role to play ensuring their children use the internet safely. Approximately 94% of Canadian children are regular users of the internet at home. They use the internet for everything from homework research, to gaming to instant messaging. Police, parents and the community must work together to raise awareness and promote safe use of the internet, particularly among youth.

While the internet provides learning opportunities, it also opens the door to the potential exploitation of children, including cyber bullying and on-line threats. Parents should be aware of what sites their children are accessing and monitor their Internet use. There are numerous Websites that provide parents with Internet safety information, including sites with pledges of safe use contracts and youth (www.safekids.com). Parents should access these sites to educate themselves on the safe practices of Internet use.

Parents should discuss the potential dangers of the Internet with their children and educate them on how to handle situations if they arise. Here are some basic things parents can do to protect their children:

–       Monitor sites visited by your children.

–       Keep computer in an open area of the home.

–       Remind children to protect their passwords; never let them share them with friends.

–       Unplug webcams when they’re not in use.

–       Be sure who they’re talking to before allowing them to turn on a web cam.

–       Make sure they protect their on-line identity at all times and don’t give out any identifying information.

–       Don’t let them get involved in a chat room discussion with someone you don’t know.

–       Limit the amount of time they spend online.

–       Explore the games your child plays to determine if they are age-appropriate.

–       Communicate openly with your child, encouraging him/her to share feelings.

“Children are vulnerable, it’s up to parents to do all they can to protect them and ensure they are using the internet safely”, says Kirkland Lake OPP Detachment Commander Staff/Sergeant Rick Witty. The OPP Crime Prevention Section has a number of tip sheets

for parents and children relating to safe internet use. You can check out the OPP website at www.opp.ca.