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Are Your Kids Safe Using The Internet?

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August 5, 2011 by wcobserver

Like Monk said on his TV program, “There is evil out there!” This is very true for the Internet. Your kids are going places that are serious risks for kids. On line threats such as predators, bad content, and cyber-bullies lurk around Facebook and the sites that children are encouraged to explore. What sites are visited by children the most?
A survey on www.redorbit.com reported on teen Internet use:

  • 15 percent of all teenage girls surveyed have been bullied online or via text message,
  • 31 percent of teens admit they have communicated something to someone online that they would not have said face-to-face,
  • 31 percent of teenage boys admit to visiting a web site intended for adults and,
  • 53 percent of all teenagers who have done so say they lied about their age to gain access,
  • 34 percent of teens say they have created online accounts that their parents do not know about!

Parents attention! If you let your children go on line, you must make it YOUR responsibility to police their contacts. Three things parents should do today according to www.ikeepsafe.org are:

KEEP CURRENT with the technology and web services your child uses. “Friend” them on Facebook, and pay attention to who their friends are. Know how to use the reporting and privacy functions and set an example of flagging inappropriate content or behavior when you see it.

KEEP COMMUNICATING. Have a conversation today about when to call 911; explain that you don’t have to know an address or even a full name to engage professional help during a crisis. Show them how to use the reporting mechanisms (flagging/tagging) provided on the sites they use and encourage them use them when they see any bad behavior. Explain that everyone benefits when all users join in self-policing their community.

KEEP CHECKING your child’s internet and cell phone activity. Watch for “bread crumbs” of risk, such as drug/alcohol use, self-harm (cutting, mutilation), eating disorders (often labeled “pro-ana,” “pro-mia” or”thinipiration”), or violence and be ready to engage the public health community on their behalf.

I spent hours looking at sites that give parents tips for keeping your kids internet safe and smart. One of the best ones can be found by going to www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-guide/. The guide gives safety tips on the following activities:

1) Email, Instant Messaging, Chat Rooms, Blogs
2) Web Surfing, Google, Yahoo, AOL, web browsers
3) On line gaming
4) Social Networking such as MySpace, Facebook, You Tube
5) Downloading from ITunes, Ringtones, TV Shows, Movies, and video clips

The guide lists five or more tips for each of the activities listed. Under the tips for Social Networking is a surprise: “ No social networking for kids in middle school or younger!”

Email or call in your questions or comments to the Observer to NEWS@WCOBSERVER.COM.

Column is written by Wes Eckles, Jr., President of the NWA Personal Computer User Group that meets monthly at the Jones Center at 1 p.m. every third Saturday. Go to pcgroup.nwark.com (no www. in front). for information about the group.

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