Your child's computer may seem an indispensable tool for accessing a wealth of information, but it does have its dark side, particularly if it allows your child to access the web. There is a possibility that your teen may be the target of exploitation by unscrupulous individuals, those who have no hesitation when it comes to victimizing the naïve and unwary, especially with such an anonymous medium as the web. As always, information and guidance is the best recourse, and your child needs to know about the basics of the safe use of the internet before he or she is allowed the privilege of using it.
If the computer is a relatively new accessory in your house it may serve to the best interest if you place it a communal room (such as the den or the living room), even if it is intended only for your child. This lets you supervise (in a discreet way) your child's online activities, enabling you to step in on those which cross security boundaries.
Online offenders will also have a tough time getting through to your child if you are there to see through obvious luring ploys. In fact, you can take over such conversations, in an effort to snare the offender at his or her own game.
Make sure that your child is aware of the dangers of the internet, and spend some time with him or her online familiarizing yourself with your child's favorite sites, as well as any other sites he or she may take a fancy on. You may enforce parental control over which sites your child may or may not browse with the help of inhibition software from your service provider. If ever your child browses adult videos online or comes across a website which carries adult videos, step in to monitor the content, and explain to your child that adult videos aren't necessarily harmful, but at present it is inappropriate for him or her at such a young age.
Online chatting is a great medium for meeting friends and venting out your teenager's take on various issues, but do remind your child that it is also a potential lurking ground for offenders. To this end, you should closely monitor your child's chat room activities, particularly those conversations which seem too close for comfort.
You may also want to gain access to your child's email and other online accounts, as he or she can also be reached through these mediums. Make sure you explain to your child your reasons for requesting access to otherwise personal accounts; the effort is geared more towards protecting his or her safety than encroaching on privacy.
Be realistic; your child has other means of access to the web other than the computer terminal at home. Have him or her commit to an informed agreement that online browsing and chatting will be done responsibly, whether at the school or at the local library, and at the homes of friends which also have internet access. There is a chance that an online predator can slip through the cracks and make contact with your child from these places. As such, information is probably the best way to keep him or her secure while online, and it is by far the best preventive measure against online exploitation.