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Internet Safety Program Combats Online Predators
While the Internet offers a world of information for kids, it also presents great dangers from online sexual predators.
Every year, one in five children receives a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet. With millions of children in chat rooms and sending instant messages, parents must take action to protect their kids.
A recent survey of young people revealed the following statistics about how parents are supervising their children's online time: More than half of young people (53 percent) say their parents never ask them about whom they are talking to on the Internet, and 55 percent say their parents never surf the Internet with them.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to create NetSmartz (www.netsmartz.org), an interactive, educational safety resource for children ages 5 to 17. Parents, guardians, educators and law enforcement personnel can access age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet.
Here are some Internet safety tips for parents:
* Keep the computer in the family room or another open area of your home.
* If children use chat or e-mail, talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they "met" online.
* Know who your children are exchanging e-mail with, and only let them use chat areas when you can supervise. Limit chatroom access to child-friendly chat sites.
* Let your children show you what they do online. Visit their favorite Web sites.
* If you suspect online "stalking" or sexual exploitation of a child, report it to your local law-enforcement agency or call the CyberTipline at (800) 843-5678.
With the support of Microsoft, BGCA also has implemented the Club Tech program in more than 3,700 Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide. Club Tech's goal is to "technology enable" every club by providing software, curriculum and computer training for staff and youth.
New technology centers are becoming available online every week, teaching basic computer skills and Internet safety.
BONUS : Internet Safety: Protecting Children In Cyberspace
The Internet is like a vast city-full of virtual shops, museums, theaters and recreational activities. But like real cities, there are certain places online that children shouldn't visit alone.
A recent study by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children revealed several startling facts about Internet users between the ages of 10 and 17:
• One in five children is inappropriately or sexually solicited on the Internet;
• One in 33 children receives an aggressive sexual solicitation-someone who asks to meet them in real life, calls them on the telephone or sends them mail, money or gifts;
• One in four children has unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or people having sex;
• One in 17 children is threatened or harassed online; and
• Less than 10 percent of sexual solicitations and only 3 percent of unwanted exposure episodes are reported to authorities.
A similar study done by the Crimes Against Children Research Center indicates that young girls are more likely than boys to have close online relationships with cyber pals, which puts them at an increased risk of being contacted and romanced by sexual predators in Internet chat rooms and similar Web communities.
Modern parents often feel overwhelmed by these complicated high-tech issues and need someone to help make sense of it all and show them how to keep up with their cyber-savvy children. Pooling the knowledge of its national network of certified technicians, Geeks On Call has developed a special program known as "Kids Club" that offers educational materials to parents and schools to help promote Internet safety for children.
At the core of the Kids Club program is a free publication titled A "Parents' Guide to Internet Safety," which is designed to provide parents with simple, practical advice about ways to protect their children and how to be actively involved in their kids' digital lives. The guide divides the subject of Internet safety into two categories: personal safety for children and technological safety for computers.
Other aspects of the Kids Club program include interactive workshops for students and Internet-safety seminars for parents and teachers.