Keeping Texas youth safe on-line

Published 8:27 am Thursday, September 17, 2015

By Ken Paxton

As the father of four children, I know Internet safety is a critical issue. In today’s world, predators and thieves can hide behind a computer screen and invisibly invade any home via a computer, tablet or smartphone. While my team of law enforcement officials are actively pursuing online predators and scam artists to put them behind bars, setting rules regarding your children’s computer usage and staying involved in their online activity are the best methods for keeping Texas children safe.

Technology is a powerful educational tool, and our children benefit from the advances that have been made in the last decade. By educating yourself and your children, you can help make the Internet a safe and valuable tool for your family.

  • Keep personal information private. Teach your children to not give our personal information, including their name, home address and phone number, especially in a chat room or to an online pen pal without your permission. Additionally, read the privacy policy of the websites your children visit to learn the kinds of personal information they are collecting and how it will be used
  • Place the computer in a public room in your home.  This allows you to monitor your children’s online activities.  Do not allow the use of webcams without your permission and without you being present.
  • Surf the Internet with your children, or at least talk to them about the websites they are visiting.
  • Implement strict rules for entering chat rooms.  The most likely place for your child to meet a sexual predator online is in a chat room. Only allow mature children to enter chat rooms, and make sure your children know not to agree to face-to-face meetings with someone they meet online. Furthermore, instruct your children to never respond to an email or chat message that makes them feel uncomfortable or from someone they do not know.
  • Establish ground rules for your children’s Internet usage, including the hours they may surf and the kinds of websites they may visit.
  • Know your children’s usernames and passwords for each site they visit and review their activity regularly.
  • Learn how to use parental controls and archiving features. You should be able to check your children’s email accounts and review the sites your children have visited on the Internet. Contact your Internet Service Provider for help, if necessary.
  • Post your family’s rules for using the computer in an easily visible place from the computer to clearly state your expectations and to serve as a regular reminder for your children.

Remember that maintaining open and honest communication with your children is key to keeping them safe. The most important thing you can do for your children is pay close attention to them and encourage them to confide in you. By remaining calm and protective, your children will trust that they can share with you if something has frightened or disturbed them so you can take the necessary steps to ensure their safety.

Ken Paxton is the Texas Attorney General