For Parents

Child Safety On The Information Highway

The following Guidelines for Parents are an excerpt from "Child Safety on the Information Highway," a brochure that is reprinted and distributed with permission of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). © NCMEC 2013.  All rights reserved. The full text of this brochure is available here, in PDF format.



By taking responsibility for your children’s online computer use, parents can greatly minimize any potential risks of being online. Make it a family rule to

• Never give out identifying information — home address, school name, or telephone number — in a public message such as chat or bulletin boards (newsgroup), and be sure you’re dealing with someone both you and your children know and trust before giving out this information via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Do not post photographs of your children on web sites or in newsgroups that are available to the public. Consider using a pseudonym, avoid listing your child’s name and E-mail address in any public directories and profiles, and find out about your ISP’s privacy policies and exercise your options for how your personal information may be used.

• Get to know the Internet and any services your child uses. ...Have your child show you what he or she does online, and become familiar with all the things that you can do online.

• Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public place, and be sure to accompany your child.

• Never respond to messages or bulletin-board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your ISP, and ask for their assistance. Instruct your child not to click on any links that are contained in E-mail from persons they don’t know. Such links could lead to sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate web sites.


• Check out blocking, filtering, and ratings. If someone sends you or your children messages or images that are obscene, lewd, filthy, or indecent with the intent to harass, abuse, annoy, or threaten, or if you become aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s
CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678 or

• Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can’t see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself. Thus, someone indicating that “she” is a “12-year-old girl” could in reality be a 40-year-old man.

• Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that’s “too good to be true” probably is. Be careful about any offers that involve you coming to a meeting, having someone visit your house, or sending money or credit-card information.

• Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. ...Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor your children’s compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer. A child’s excessive use of online services or the Internet, especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem. Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.


• Check out blocking, filtering, and ratings. Be sure to make this a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child’s bedroom. Get to know their “online friends” just as you get to know all of their other friends.


"Child Safety on the Information Highway" was jointly produced by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Internet Alliance (formerly Interactive Services Association), PO Box 65782, Washington, DC 20035-5782,