The Dark Side of the Internet

Progression & Linkages of Issues (for parents)

Bullying - may start at school and/or online and can lead to alienation - this may be coupled with a typical rocky home life for adolescents and teens feeling misunderstood.  The most important thing to consider is your response. By calmly telling the child to turn off the screen (not the computer and do not re-start the computer) you can review the content of the message and probably determine the path and author of the harassing message.  It is important to note that keeping the page up will assist in tracking the site and path to the site.  It is also important to develop this trust with your students. (video) (Canadian Law & bullies)

- this bullying behaviour can lead the child to seek acceptance through anonymous non-threatening sources like Internet chat rooms and email where lurkers and predators await. (chatroom danger website) Chat is a very popular activity for young people, especially teenagers, but it is also the area where they are most likely to get into trouble. When you're in a chat area, it's easy to forget that you are in a public "place" and that you don't necessarily know the true identity of anyone in the chat room. It's common to "meet" someone in a chat area who gains your confidence by being sympathetic and willing to "listen" to your problems. Children and especially teens need to be extremely careful in chat rooms. They should never reveal their identify and they should never assume that someone is as he or she seems to be. They should NEVER agree to meet someone in person based on a friendly online chat without talking to their parents. If parents agree to the meeting, they or another adult should be present and it should be in a public place. (kids chat codes) (popular chat sites)

Tips for avoiding problems in chat rooms:
1) Because many
spammers use names they can easily collect from a chat room, consider giving your child a "chat" screen name. This name would be one that is different than their e-mail address. This could help prevent unwanted Spam mail from coming to your child.
2) Instruct your child never to give out personal information in a chat room.
3) Instruct your child never to agree to get together with anyone they meet in a chat room without first checking with you.

Instant Messaging (IM)
Instant messaging is like chat, except that it's usually a one-on-one experience instead of a group activity. In some ways that's safer if the person the child is messaging is a friend or relative. But it can be dangerous if it's a stranger. Unlike in some chat rooms, there is never anyone else there to monitor activity, so when your child is messaging another person it's as if the two of them are together in a private room. One of the original Instant Messaging programs was
Internet Relay Chat (IRC). More recent providers include ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and MSN Messenger (msn tricks). Some of the newer versions of IM software now allow you to exchange attachments, such as business documents, photos and other information. (safety and privacy tips for msn)

MSN Messenger - Security flaws and the importing of buddy lists through msn messenger can be detrimental to your child's safety as well.  There have been cases where buddy lists contain hundreds of names and people - opening the door to lurkers who will collect information on children that will later be used to "relate" to the child. Go through the buddy list on your child's email account with him/her and ask them if they know each person - if so how do they know them?  Have they ever met them?  Where? There have also been cases of fictitious accounts and personalities set up to avoid identification of true identity. (article)

Predators & Lurkers - Predators use conversations in chat rooms, instant messaging, E-mail, blogs or discussion boards to interact and groom (grooming powerpoint) your child/student into believing that they (predator) are the only ones who understand and support the child.  Since many teens use peer support online forums to deal with their problems. Predators often go to these online areas to look for vulnerable victims. Online predators try to gradually seduce their targets through attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts, and often devote considerable time, money, and energy to this effort. They're aware of the latest music and hobbies likely to interest kids. Some predators work faster than others, engaging in sexually explicit conversations immediately. This more direct approach may include harassment or stalking. Predators may also evaluate the kids they meet online for future face-to-face contact. Police Officers, Firefighters, Teachers, Computer Programmers, Lawyers, etc have all been convicted of these types of crimes throughout North America and abroad. (cyberstalking website)

Blog - A weblog, web log or simply a blog, is a web application which contains periodic posts on a common webpage. These posts are often but not necessarily in reverse chronological order. Such a website would typically be accessible to any Internet user. In other words, this is basically an online personal diary of one's thoughts, beliefs and/or rants.  These are gaining popularity in many forums. A few common blog sites are used by teens; livejournal, xanga, mindsay, blogger.

Moblog - A mobile weblog, or moblog, consists of content posted to the Internet from a mobile or portable device, such as a cellular phone or personal digital assistant (blackberry, etc). Moblogs generally involve technology which allows publishing from a mobile device. (about mobile blogs)

Personal Profiles - here the child may inadvertently provide valuable personal information to the predator or lurker as to the child's location and community. Go through this with your child to ensure they are not revealing too much. (article) A very popular and potentially dangerous profile site is My Space

Screen Names - Another problem area, especially for young girls. Screen names like hottie69, sweetlove, sexyone, etc. attract the wrong people who would normally pass you by on the net.  While changing screen names regularly and using false personal information is safe online behaviour, it is problematic in that people feel that doing this regularly can become too much work. Be sure to change these names regularly. (more info.)  

Phishing & Identity Theft - Phishing attacks use 'spoofed' e-mails and fraudulent websites designed to fool recipients into divulging personal financial data such as credit card numbers, account usernames and passwords, social insurance numbers, etc. By hijacking the trusted brands of well-known banks, online retailers and credit card companies, phishers are able to convince up to 5% of recipients to respond to them. Once your personal data has been compromised, the door is open to steal what is left of your identity and possibly open new accounts, credit cards, etc.
CNN article) or try this (Can you spot a phishing email?)

- Hackers use programs that can rapidly determine passwords based on words in the dictionary in different languages, even common words spelled backwards. If you use a common word as your password, you might think you're protected if you replace letters of that word with numbers or symbols that look like the letters such as M1cr0$0ft or P@ssw0rd. Unfortunately, hackers know these tricks too.  A strong password is one that is at least eight characters, includes a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols and is easy for you to remember, but difficult for others to guess. (secure passwords)

Create a strong passphrase
- The easiest way to create a strong password that you won't have to write down is to come up with a passphrase. A passphrase is a sentence that you can remember, like "I like eating Dairy Queen in the summer" You can make a pretty strong password by using the first letter of each word of the sentence. For example, ileDQits. However, you can make this password even stronger by using a combination of letters, numbers, punctuation and special characters that look like letters. For example, using the same memorable sentence and a few tricks, your password is now 1leDQ1t5. If you're using a common phrase make sure to inject at least one number or symbol into the password.

Spyware - appears mostly with downloaded programs from the Internet.  Especially on music sharing sites like Kazaa and Morpheus.  Dial-up or modem spyware consists mainly of installing auto-dialer codes onto your computer.  This can run up the phone bills if left unchecked but can be addressed easily with a program like spyblaster or spybot search and destroy. (video)
Viruses - Viruses are everywhere but typically have to be activated by opening attachments through email or accessing an email link to a website. If you do not recognize the sender and if the subject line is short or vague and directs you to open the attached file - it's probably a bug. By deleting the file and not opening it, the virus cannot harm your computer. (video)

File Swapping (P2P) - This is mostly music, videos and some programs.  Kazaa, Morpheus, E-donkey and Limewire are among the most popular file sharing programs.  There are multiple spyware and viruses embedded into these files because they are often opened or launched immediately after downloading, thus releasing the virus or spyware. If you choose to use such programs, be sure to run ad-aware afterwards to eliminate the bugs you may have picked up.

Plagiarism - explain what plagiarism is to your students and clearly outline the school and board policy at the beginning of the school year.  If the student violates this rule, follow your own classroom or school protocol.  Try to make sure that the child understands the severity of the issue. (website)

Search Engines - Over the past five years many search engines have introduced excellent filters into their sites.  However, a misspelled word, phrase or accidental keystroke can easily direct you or your student to a pornographic website.  The most important thing to consider is your reaction to this mishap. By calmly telling the child to turn off the screen (not the computer and do not re-start the computer) you can se what the site is and probably determine how the child arrived at the site.  It is important to note that keeping the page up will assist in tracking the site and path to the site.  It is also important to develop this trust with your students. (Do Internet Filters work?)
Here is a great search engine for kids (
kids search tools)

Monitoring - Should you monitor your kids online? This is a key question that only you can answer but here is another question - Do you want them to be safe?  If you are honest and upfront about the monitoring software and let them know that its purpose is to monitor the "conversation" of the other people in the chat room, not to really monitor your kids, this may put them at ease. Monitoring is a way to ensure people aren't asking inappropriate questions ("What is your real name?" "What school do you go to?"); if they are, it's a record for you to use to report them to the authorities. Be aware that if your children know they have monitoring software on their machine, there is nothing stopping them from using the local library of a friend's pc.  This is a very delicate balance. (website)

Software - Essential software on any computer  includes a firewall, ad-removal program and anti-virus software.  All of these should be installed and in place prior to your first visit to the Internet.  There are free downloadable programs to meet all of these needs from
5 tips for securing your computer)

Privacy - be sure to explain to your children why you should never reveal any personal information over the web, especially to strangers. This article will help you understand the issues.
how online tracking works)

Hoaxes - Interspersed among the junk mail and spam that fills our Internet e-mail boxes are dire warnings about devastating new viruses, Trojans that eat the heart out of your system, and malicious software that can steal the computer right off your desk. Added to that are messages about free money, children in trouble, and other items designed to grab you and get you to forward the message to everyone you know. Most of these messages are hoaxes or chain letters. Don't participate or respond to any of these types of messages and also do not forward them. (hoaxbusters)

Safety Tips for Kids (here)

Safety Tips for Teens (here)

Safety Tips for Parents  (here)

Parent Safety Quiz (10 Questions) - How much do you really know...

Why Internet Filtering Software?
The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time. As our families become increasingly intertwined with it, the more active role we must take to protect our loved ones from Internet pornography. Although
nothing can take the place of a well-informed parent that takes an active part in their children's online activities, Internet Filtering Software adds a strong, additional layer of defence-giving parents an added measure of control and further peace of mind. (learn about different filters)

Worthwhile Downloads
Downloadable trial versions of each of these is available at

1. Free Firewall -
Zone Alarm
2. Free Adware cleaner -
Ad-Aware Se Personal
3. Free Cleaner -
Pest Patrol (essential if children use your pc)
4. Free Spyware/Active X cleaner -
Spyware Blaster
5. Free Search Toolbar -
Google toolbar (with pop-up stopper)
6. Free Dialer stopper -
Spybot search & destroy (essential for modems)
7. Free Anti-virus -
AVG anti virus
8. Free Internet & computer monitor -
Yahoo Search (Beta version)
(Yahoo search allows you to search and monitor activity on your computer - for free. It's a very powerful and safe tool.)
9. Free Parental Filter - from

Five exceptional websites for learning about Internet Safety;

Netsmartz (
Covers all aspects of Internet Safety & Awareness and offers excellent free resources. (Outstanding)

Surf Safely (
Explains all technical jargon and issues in plain language. (Excellent)

Microsoft Home Security (
Outlines all aspects of security with videos and articles. (Excellent)

i-Safe America (
Covers various aspects of Internet Safety and Awareness.  (Excellent)

SecureMac (
Security issues are covered from the Mac perspective. (Very Good)
Cyberproofing 101
Please note - this collection of information and links represents my interpretation of the related issues of Internet Safety & Awareness.  The external links are not my creations nor are they affiliated with me or this site in any way.
Report Cybercrime (1-866-658-9022) 
Virtual Global Task Force
Contact Rod Oickle for further free resources or to arrange a workshop for your group, students or school.
Workshop Handout