Parent's Guide to Internet Safety
A Publication of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for
children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different
cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they
hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals
who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line
services and the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce
their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness,
and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable
amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen
to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware
of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals
attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions by slowly introducing
sexual context and content into their conversations.
are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually
explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect
and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face
meetings with children via on-line contacts. It is important for
parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized
through conversation, i.e. "chat," as well as the transfer
of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders
may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line
for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents
and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be
any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of
a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who
could harm a child.
especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious
about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving
away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish
new relationships outside their family. Because they may be curious,
children/adolescents sometimes use their on-line access to actively
seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting
children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some
adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by on-line
offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child
molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced
and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand
or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.
guide was prepared from actual investigations involving child victims,
as well as investigations where law enforcement officers posed as
children. Further information on protecting your child on-line may
be found in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's
Child Safety on the Information Highway and Teen Safety on the Information
Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?
child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large
amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go
on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids
whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They
go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and
sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of
the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should
consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.
on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While
offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day
and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children
or seeking pornography.
find pornography on your child's computer.
is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders
often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means
of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography
may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and
adults is "normal." Parents should be conscious of the
fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from
them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other
child receives phone calls from men you don't know or is making
calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex
offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children
on the telephone. They often engage in "phone sex" with
the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real
a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the
computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they
can readily find out the child's phone number. Some computer-sex
offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their
potential victims can call them without their parents finding out.
Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods
result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child's
child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send
letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential
victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in
order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.
child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen
on the monitor when you come into the room.
child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit
conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
child becomes withdrawn from the family.
offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child
and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will
accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have.
Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.
child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.
if you don't subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service,
your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's house
or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or
Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide
potential victims with a computer account for communications with
Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A
Sexual Predator On-line?
talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Tell them
about the dangers of computer-sex offenders.
Review what is on your child's computer. If you don't know how,
ask a friend, coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person.
Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning
Use the Caller ID service to determine who is calling your child.
Most telephone companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service
that allows you to block your number from appearing on someone else's
Telephone companies also offer an additional service feature that
rejects incoming calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents
computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling your home anonymously.
Devices can be purchased that show telephone numbers that have been
dialed from your home phone. Additionally, the last number called
from your home phone can be retrieved provided that the telephone
is equipped with a redial feature. You will also need a telephone
pager to complete this retrieval.
is done using a numeric-display pager and another phone that is
on the same line as the first phone with the redial feature. Using
the two phones and the pager, a call is placed from the second phone
to the pager. When the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a
telephone number, you press the redial button on the first (or suspect)
phone. The last number called from that phone will then be displayed
on the pager.
Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications
(i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.),
and monitor your child's e-mail. Computer-sex offenders almost always
meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line,
they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.
Should any of the following situations arise in your household,
via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact
your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
child or anyone in the household has received child pornography;
Your child has been sexually solicited by someone who knows that
your child is under 18 years of age;
Your child has received sexually explicit images from someone that
knows your child is under the age of 18.
If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in
order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless
directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not
attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.
Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing
and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential
Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about
their favorite on-line destinations.
Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's
bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to
communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to
a parent or another member of the household.
Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or
blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for
children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest,
it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms,
in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should
utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
Always maintain access to your child's on-line account and randomly
check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted
through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access
and reasons why.
Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There
is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school,
the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These
are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child
could encounter an on-line predator.
Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any
form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is
the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility
for his or her actions.
Instruct your children:
never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;
to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet
or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
to never give out identifying information such as their name, home
address, school name, or telephone number;
to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a
good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are
suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.
Frequently Asked Questions:
child has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website,
what should I do?
advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is sent to an
e-mail address does not violate federal law or the current laws
of most states. In some states it may be a violation of law if the
sender knows the recipient is under the age of 18. Such advertising
can be reported to your service provider and, if known, the service
provider of the originator. It can also be reported to your state
and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of the extent
of the problem.
any service safer than the others?
offenders have contacted children via most of the major on-line
services and the Internet. The most important factors in keeping
your child safe on-line are the utilization of appropriate blocking
software and/or parental controls, along with open, honest discussions
with your child, monitoring his/her on-line activity, and following
the tips in this pamphlet.
I just forbid my child from going on-line?
are dangers in every part of our society. By educating your children
to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect them, they
can benefit from the wealth of information now available on-line.
- An immense, global network that connects computers via telephone
lines and/or fiber networks to storehouses of electronic information.
With only a computer, a modem, a telephone line and a service provider,
people from all over the world can communicate and share information
with little more than a few keystrokes.
Board Systems (BBSs) - Electronic networks of computers that are
connected by a central computer setup and operated by a system administrator
or operator and are distinguishable from the Internet by their "dial-up"
accessibility. BBS users link their individual computers to the
central BBS computer by a modem which allows them to post messages,
read messages left by others, trade information, or hold direct
conversations. Access to a BBS can, and often is, privileged and
limited to those users who have access privileges granted by the
On-line Service (COS) - Examples of COSs are America Online, Prodigy,
CompuServe and Microsoft Network, which provide access to their
service for a fee. COSs generally offer limited access to the Internet
as part of their total service package.
Service Provider (ISP) - Examples of ISPs are Erols, Concentric
and Netcom. These services offer direct, full access to the Internet
at a flat, monthly rate and often provide electronic-mail service
for their customers. ISPs often provide space on their servers for
their customers to maintain World Wide Web (WWW) sites. Not all
ISPs are commercial enterprises. Educational, governmental and nonprofit
organizations also provide Internet access to their members.
Chat Rooms - Created, maintained, listed and monitored by the COS
and other public domain systems such as Internet Relay Chat. A number
of customers can be in the public chat rooms at any given time,
which are monitored for illegal activity and even appropriate language
by systems operators (SYSOP). Some public chat rooms are monitored
more frequently than others, depending on the COS and the type of
chat room. Violators can be reported to the administrators of the
system (at America On-line they are referred to as terms of service
[TOS]) which can revoke user privileges. The public chat rooms usually
cover a broad range of topics such as entertainment, sports, game
rooms, children only, etc.
Mail (E-Mail) - A function of BBSs, COSs and ISPs which provides
for the transmission of messages and files between computers over
a communications network similar to mailing a letter via the postal
service. E-mail is stored on a server, where it will remain until
the addressee retrieves it. Anonymity can be maintained by the sender
by predetermining what the receiver will see as the "from"
address. Another way to conceal one's identity is to use an "anonymous
remailer," which is a service that allows the user to send
an e-mail message repackaged under the remailer's own header, stripping
off the originator's name completely.
- Real-time text conversation between users in a chat room with
no expectation of privacy. All chat conversation is accessible by
all individuals in the chat room while the conversation is taking
Messages - Private, real-time text conversation between two users
in a chat room.
Relay Chat (IRC) - Real-time text conversation similar to public
and/or private chat rooms on COS.
(Newsgroups) - Like a giant, cork bulletin board where users post
messages and information. Each posting is like an open letter and
is capable of having attachments, such as graphic image files (GIFs).
Anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the postings, take copies
of posted items, or post responses. Each newsgroup can hold thousands
of postings. Currently, there are over 29,000 public newsgroups
and that number is growing daily. Newsgroups are both public and/or
private. There is no listing of private newsgroups. A user of private
newsgroups has to be invited into the newsgroup and be provided
with the newsgroup's address.
Bureau of Investigation
Innocent Images National Initiative
11700 Beltsville Drive
Calverton, MD 20705
Contact your local FBI office for further information or visit
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.