STATEHOUSE REPORT FROM THE DESK OF SENATOR LONG

“THE INTERNET: A SAFETY PROBLEM FOR PARENTS” 

 

The Internet is more accessible than ever before. Children and teenagers are now afforded the opportunity to not only conduct research information via the World Wide Web, but can connect with friends via chat rooms and social networking websites. With just the click of a mouse button, children are instantly connected to millions of other individuals, both friends and strangers.

Unfortunately, there are still a fair number of sexual predators who continue to prey on the innocence of children. The convenience of the internet makes it easier than ever before for sexual predators to seek out their next victim. In fact, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in five youth who regularly uses the internet receives a sexual solicitation.

Popular sites such as Facebook.com and MySpace.com are two of the internet’s most popular social networking hubs where internet users can post pictures and profiles of themselves for other users to see. Users can then request one another as “friends” and contact may be made through email and instant messaging.

Though security measures, such as minimum age limits on MySpace and valid college email addresses on Facebook.com, have been set in place, they definitely are not foolproof.

MySpace.com recently made national headlines when a Michigan 16-year-old was detained in Jordan while on her way to Israel to meet a man she met on the website. The girl has since been returned to the United States. In a separate case, a 14-year-old girl from Austin, Texas is suing MySpace for $30 million, alleging she was sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on the site.

While no child is immune to the threat of internet predators, there are steps parents can take to help reduce the risk of their children being targeted. Not all of these tips will work for every family, but they are simply suggestions.

Talk to your child about the potential dangers of the internet. Have them show you their favorite websites and maintain access to your child’s online account.Routinely check his/her email. Let your child know you are monitoring their email for his/her own protection.

Keep the computer in a common room in the home. Don’t allow the child to have a computer in his/her bedroom where they may be online without direct supervision.

Several software companies offer programs with parental controls. This allows parents to block websites where online predators may be lurking. While this software may be expensive depending on the company, many internet service providers offer these blocking programs to their members for free, or for a minimal charge.

Approximately 75 percent of America’s youth between the ages of 12-17 have regular access to the internet. According to Yahoo.com, teenagers spend, on average, 16 hours a week online. That adds up to more than two hours a day! If we want to protect our children from the risk of being solicited online, every precaution must be taken to assure the Internet is safe to use.

The Waynedale News Staff
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Sen. David Long

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