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Kid Safe Messaging

The following is an exertpt from the Chat chapter of the book. The .pdf file below has the entire chapter. This web page has the specific recommendations regarding childrens' use of chat products.

Each tactics chapter has four sections, Introduction, Taking Action, Beyond the Basics and Additional Resources. But that's not all. The tactics sections are the heart of the book. However there are additional sections describing the history of privacy, major issues and introductions to privacy law. Here's the sample section online now, or download the .pdf file.

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Special Notes: Kids & IM/Chat

Many of these rules might just as well apply to adults. But adults supposedly have the sensibility to make their own proper decisions. Children, however, need to be given clearer guidance. You must decide for yourself what age means "child" within your household.

•  Rule 1. Never, under any circumstances offer personally identi­fiable information. This includes full real name, address or any other information which could lead someone to the child.

•  Make sure there is no personally identifiable information filled out in any online profile or directory. Do not allow your child to send their photograph to strangers. (Depending on the age of your child and what other identifying information is there, consider not having the child's picture on any personal web sites. Yours or the child's.)

• Never agree to meet in person anyone whom they have met online without parental permission. Not in a private place. Not in a public place. Any consideration of this kind must be reviewed with parents.

• If your child is old enough to be allowed to go online unsuper­vised, then they must be old enough for what may be a difficult conversation. You have very likely already expressed to them how to deal with strangers in real life. Online is no different. They need to be impressed with the fact that there are those in the world who would mean to do them harm. Even after multiple chats, it is possible the person they are talking to is not who they say they are.

• Warn your child to inform you if anyone they are having conver­sations with asks them to keep their communication "secret."

• Warn your child never to give their password out to anyone for any reason. Explain that anyone asking for this for any reason is almost sure to be lying. Tell your child to let you know imme­diately if someone is asking them for this.

• If you suspect, for whatever reason, that your child may be involved with someone online in an inappropriate way, discuss it. Do not wait.

• Some services have special monitoring set up for chat discus
­sion amongst minors. Remember that this is no guarantee
others in the room are confirmed as who they say they are.

• Use a special account for your child. One with their own screen name. One that cannot be easily traced back to the child. One that can be abandoned if they begin to have problems that become difficult to deal with beyond using the "Ignore" feature.

• Should you note any changes in a child's behavior, among other causes you may be considering, look into whether some­thing that happened online may be the cause.

• Decide whether to use "spyware/snoopware" and filtering soft­ware on your child's computer. While everyone, including chil­dren, has privacy needs, you as a parent get to decide the freedom vs. security question for your children. Do understand though, even an early teenager may be savvy enough to detect and disable this sort of thing. (Note that filtering can be software installed on the computer or you may use an Internet Service Provider that has filtering rules at their end of the connection.)

• Make sure your home is not the only child-safe computing spot. Consider anywhere else your child may have access. This includes school, public places, and friends' houses. Discuss these issues with other parents.

• If you are personally not very computer literate, you must be sure to personally visit with your child during their online activ­ities. Be sure they understand these issues and your rules.

• If you strongly believe something inappropriate or illegal has happened, you should not let anyone use the computer. Turn it off and unplug it. You want to make sure that any files or history is left undisturbed.

• Contacting law enforcement is a serious step. Do not take it lightly. However, if you sincerely believe your child is at risk, contact your local law enforcement agency. If at all possible, get someone in their computer crimes unit assigned to your case. They will likely do this in any case if they have such a unit. If this is not possible and you are not comfortable with your local law enforcement agency's actions, consider contacting the FBI.

• On a final note regarding child safety online: Make sure they turn off the computer and go out and play sometimes.

Additional Resources

Child Safety

Child Safety Experts: CyberAngels:
National Safe Kids Campaign:

Content Filtering Software

Net Nanny:

Additional Resources

Any links in the Additional Resources sections of the book will also be placed online for your convenience. The links for this section are in the book support area under Chat.

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