Online Dangers

This archived article is from January 2003. Although every effort has been made to make sure the information presented is accurate, please note that it may contain information that is out-of-date.

According to Statistics Canada, children are spending less time watching television and more time in front of the computer. From a health standpoint, other activities such as outdoor play would be far more beneficial than sitting in front of a screen for long periods. From a personal safety standpoint, the unregulated environment of cyberspace is virtually impossible to police.

The Internet has been called an electronic Trojan horse. It offers education, entertainment, and communication with people around the world - all potentially good experiences. Unfortunately, it also attracts con artists, pedophiles, ideologies and other material to which parents might not want their children exposed.

The Canada Safety Council and Media Awareness Network Web sites provide Internet safety tips to help parents protect their children from the Dark Side of the World Wide Web.

Name Exposure

Exchanging e-mail with friends seems like an innocent activity. However, after children exchange e-mail addresses they may start to receive forwarded messages, some re-forwarded by several senders. Everyone uses the CC field, exposing the e-mail addresses to more and more strangers, sometimes into the hundreds.

Spammers pick up names from these chain e-mails, enabling them to clog Inboxes with unwanted e-mails, from sales pitches to pornographic and hate spam. They may also be able to obtain personal information if the e-mail address is attached to traceable identifying information through an ISP.

When you give a friend your phone number or address, you don't expect that he or she will pass it along to everyone they phone or send mail to, and that the next person will then do the same. Most parents and children do not realize the risks and consequences of this common practice.

Bullies

A survey released in April 2002 by the UK children's charity NCH found more than one in four teenagers had been bullied either by e-mail or mobile phone. The 856 respondents were between 11 and 19 years of age. Sixteen percent had received bullying or threatening text messages, seven percent had been harassed in Internet chat rooms and four percent by e-mail. One in three of the victims had told no one.

The Internet takes bullying beyond the school yard - there is no safe haven, even at home. Bullies can create hate Web sites about other children and distribute the URLs through Internet chat rooms. A bully can harass by persistent e-mails. The Internet provides an anonymity that creates the confidence to make threats a child would not make in person. Victims should change their mobile number or e-mail address if they receive threats. If the messages continue, they should not be afraid to go to the police.

Cyber Stalking

A cyber stalker is someone who contacts or seeks to gain intimate personal knowledge of another person through online communication without their consent or after being told to cease. Stalkers lurk in chat rooms, news groups, bulletin boards and e-mail. Their objective is to create fear and get a reaction. They may also send viruses or masses of spam, or hack into a computer.

According to a 1999 report of the US Department of Justice, one out of every 10 Internet users had been stalked online. Most victims are adults, and 80 percent are women. Alarmingly, one out of every five cyber stalking cases becomes an offline, real-world stalking case.

If you feel you are being stalked, respond to absolutely nothing sent by the stalker. Use a filter or blocking software to prevent the e-mails from reaching your Inbox. If the problem only exists on ICQ or IRC, completely change your online identity.

The offender will eventually give up when you won't play the game. If harassment continues you can report the stalker to both their ISP and your own. With sufficient grounds, most ISPs will terminate offenders' accounts, but beware that doing this could aggravate the situation. You may have to change your e-mail account or even your ISP.

Cybertip.ca

In 2002, a new Web site was launched at www.cybertip.ca. The site is operated by The Canadian Centre for Child Protection in partnership with the federal government and private sector partners. It handles tips from individuals reporting the online sexual exploitation of children. There is also a toll-free phone line (1-866-658-9022).

Incidents of child pornography, luring, child sex tourism, or child prostitution can be reported. Cybertip.ca receives and analyses the tips, then refers leads to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.