Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet: Online Risks and Threats
By Natalie Walker Whitlock and Marilyn Martinez
With three-fourths of
U.S. homes wired for online service and thousands more schools and libraries connected, the majority of children today have access to the Internet. Large numbers of these children who go online are encountering sexual solicitations they do not want, offensive material they did not seek, and people who threaten and harass them in a variety of ways

Are Your Kids Safe
on the Internet?

  • Introduction
  • Online Risks & Threats
  • Profile of a Predator
  • Parent Power!
  • Chat Room Lingo
  • Warning Signs
  • Online Safety Guidelines

  • More than 80 percent of children who use e-mail receive inappropriate spam – junk e-mail – on a daily basis, according to a 2003 survey of 1,000 children ages 7 to 18 by Symantec Corp., a producer of Internet security software based in Cupertino, Calif. That e-mail includes sweepstakes messages, relationship-related spam such as “meet singles online,” and e-mails with links to X-rated web sites. About 50 percent of the kids surveyed reported having personal e-mail accounts that they read without a parent’s guidance.

    When surfing the Web, chatting or opening their e-mail inbox, kids are vulnerable to some pretty scary material. “They are being exposed through those e-mail accounts to some of the same things adults get through e-mail,” says Anson Son Lee, an Internet security expert at Symantec who worked on the survey.

    One reason is that the Internet, as in real life, is home to diverse ideas and activities – both desirable and undesirable. “It’s the same on the Internet as in the real world,” says Colin Gabriel Hatcher, cofounder and director of, the online arm of the Guardian Angels organization. “Parents need to take the same precautions as they would if their kids were walking down the street.”

    However, unlike most off-line situations, the Web is invasive, immediate and anonymous — three factors that can be especially dangerous to children. Some possible online threats include:

    • predators and pedophiles

    • pornography and explicit sexual content

    • hatred, racism and violence

    • drugs, alcohol and tobacco

    • privacy violations

    • “flaming” – rude and obnoxious people

    • gambling

    • scams, misinformation and fraud

    • advertising that is highly manipulative of children

    • viruses and worms

    • computer crime (aka “hacking”) 

    Many of these risks can be grouped together under the general category of material that is inappropriate, offensive or harmful to children. 

    Continue: Profile of a Predator
    Return to: Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet

    Related reading: Cyber Brats: Protect your kids from bullies who taunt their peers with the click of a mouse.