One out of five teens is sexually solicited online each year. There are specific things you can do to help keep your own teens safe. Start by getting involved! Educate yourself on how the Internet works and keep tabs on your child's computer use.
    The Internet can be a great research tool and a fun way to keep in touch with friends and family. But going online also presents some possible dangers that you need know about. There is a dark side of the internet that can be accessed by your teen.
    Here are som ways you and your teen can steer clear of trouble while using the Web.
    Potential Issue
    Parental Obligation
    • Nothing is Private! Think about what you type.
    • Never send personal information, such as name, address, phone number, pictures, or the name of your school out into cyberspace.
    • E-mails can be forwarded with the click of a mouse. Any personal information you put out into cyberspace can be forwarded to others with a click of the mouse!
    • Remind your teen not to disclose personal information online.
    • Draft a list together with your teen of what not to share, including name, age, school, phone number, home address, and photos
    • Be Smart! Teens should not make plans to meet an online "friend" in person without checking with you. If you are OK with the idea, take him or her along and make the meeting in a public place.
    • No matter how friendly and fun someone seems online, they may be completely different in real life.
    • If something you see online is "too good to be true," it probably is. If you receive any offers that involve going to a meeting, having someone visit your house, or sending money or credit card information, you should be notified.
    • Talk frequently with your teen. Discuss their online friends just as you talk about their other friends.
    • Keep the computer in a common area of the house. This makes it easier to monitor computer use.
    • Ask your teen to tell you right away about any uncomfortable online experience. Assure them that you will not be angry if he or she confides in you.
    • Consider filtering or monitoring software. They can help you control your teen's online use, but are no substitute for parental involvement and supervision.
    • "Grooming" is when an adult goes online to meet young people with the intention of establishing an inappropriate relationship. It takes the form of unnecessary flatter, offers of gifts, persistent efforts to engage in conversation with your teen. It can lead up to offers of sexual solicitation.
    • Create a written Internet safety plan. Set rules for Internet an e-mail use. Include specific strategies for what your teen will do if they are sexually solicited online, or if they are frightened by an online encounter. Have your teen and yourself sign this plan and post it near your computer.
    • Know the signs of "grooming." If you suspect online grooming of your teen or of any other child, report it immediately to your local law enforcement agency.
    • Tell your teen to report anything that makes them uncomfortable to you immediately. Ask them to leave anything like that on the monitor so you can see it. Print out anything suspicious. The police will thank you for that.
    • The internet, and cell phone texting have become increasingly popular avenues for kids to harass and bully one another. Social Networks, text messages, e-mails, chat groups, and instant messaging allow students to put out hurtful, comments to a large audience. This has spawned "Cyberbullying" awareness, and laws around the nation.
    • Tell your teen not to respond if someone is bullying them or their friends electronically. They need to tell you, an adult at school, or a trusted adult.
    • Reinforce with your teen to not share information online that could be embarrassing.
    • Save or print inappropriate messages and pictures your child shares with you--they are evidence and important to any action you take in the future.
    • Contact your Internet service provider and file a complaint if you receive images or messages that you think violate the Terms and Conditions of your contract.
    • Contact the school if your child is being bullied, harassed, or intimidated by another student. If this is happening on school district time or equipment, the school can impose discipline. At the very least the school probably needs a heads up in case this spills over into problems at the school.
    • If your child is accused of cyberbullying, seek help from your Internet provider, your school, and, if indicated, professional counseling.
    • Contact the police if your child receives violent threats or pornography over the Internet; if your child receives obscene or harassing phone calls or text messages.
    • Don't be afraid to contact the other party's parents if you can. Often parents are unaware of their child's actions, and would rather work with you to solve the issue than with the school or police.