Help kids deal with hateful content on the Internet

There are many forms of hate on the Internet, ranging from extreme racist sites to the cruel satire found on many popular kids’ Web sites.

Some impressionable kids move from sites where people are mocked for their personal appearance to sites where minorities and homosexuals are attacked.

White supremacist and hate groups have turned to the Internet to target young people for recruitment. Hate promoters look for vulnerable youth who can be brought into their community through private chat rooms and e-mail, far away from the public eye.

These groups also use hateful music to entice young people to their cause. When kids surf the Net for music, they can easily come across sites that sell hate music or even make it available for free.

Some hate sites have areas specifically designed for young children that give the appearance of being legitimate by offering harmless activities, crafts, and links to respected kids’ sites.

The purpose of a hate site isn’t always readily apparent. For example, at first glance, “martinlutherking.org” appears to be a tribute to the American civil rights leader. In fact, it is a hate site created by a white supremacist organization.

How to help your kids avoid hateful content on the Internet

Parents must protect young children from hateful content on the Internet. They must also teach older kids how to think critically about online content and what to look for when identifying if a Web site might be a hate Web site. Here are some things you can do to help your kids avoid hateful content online:

    Learn everything you can about the Internet and what your kids are doing online. Ask your kids to show you where they go online and what they like. Keep the lines of communication open so your kids feel comfortable coming to you for help if they encounter anything disturbing.
      Create an online agreement with input from your kids. The agreement should have clear guidelines for where they can go on the Internet and what they can do.
        Monitor and supervise your children’s Internet use. Generally, children under 10 do not have the critical-thinking skills to surf the Net alone. It’s a good practice to keep connected computers in a highly visible area, not in your child’s room.
          Educate your kids about online hate. Young people will better be able to recognize and avoid hateful content if they are taught the strategies hate promoters use and the history of racism. Help them to identify hateful content and symbols on Web sites-for example, swastikas, derogatory references to race or sexual orientation, and cartoon depictions of various ethnic and racial groups.
            Investigate filtering software. While filters can help block some violent and hateful content, these technologies are not the complete answer. Online hate often crops up in subtle forms that are not always identified by filters.
              Practice good online etiquette. Encourage your children to be kind and respectful in what they write online and not to encourage hateful, mean, or harassing messages to others. Remind them that nothing online is totally private.

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