Monday, January 23, 2012

Children and the World Wide Web

   We are no stranger to the game or are we? Internet has been a breeding ground for some very questionable (to say the least) activities such as Cyberbullying, Child Predators and the all to often Porn Sites. I think it is time that we start talking about keeping our children safe from all of these.

   The Internet can be very beneficial, we can use it for communication to speak to people all over the world very inexpensively, use e-mail to send pictures, files, videos and more with a touch of a button and it is the largest encyclopedia of the world. However, there are also risks associated with the Internet such as Pornography, Cyberbullying and Predators just to name a couple.

   I am absolutely disgusted by the information I found in my research on this subject. It is so scary that this is normally passed over as not such a big deal in so many households (mine included). After reading about this I knew that I had to share it with you so that we can all spread the word out there and maybe bring these numbers down some. So here we go!!!

Did You Know
*Information gathered is from Crimes Against Children Research Center*
These statistics are based on interviews with a national representative of 1,501 youth ages 10-17 who use the Internet regularly.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 had received sexual solicitation or was approached over the Internet in the last year.
  • 1 in 33 had a solicitor who asked them to meet somewhere, offered or mailed them money, called them on the phone or offered to buy them gifts. These solicitors are referred to as Aggressive Solicitors.
  • 1 out of 4 of these children had been exposed to unwanted pictures of naked people or people having sex in the last year.
  • 1 out of 17 of these children have been threatened or harassed online.
  • Less then 10% of sexual solicitations are reported to law enforcement, Internet service provider or a hotline.
  • Less then 3% of unwanted exposures go reported to law enforcement, Internet service provider or a hotline.
  • About 25% of the children approached or encountered by sexual solicitation told a parent about it.
  • Only 17% of youth and 10% of parents could name a specific authority to which they could report the  problem to. (ie. FBI, CyberTipline or an Internet Service Provider).
A few definitions of what was just spoken about above

Sexual solicitations and approaches: Requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual
talk or give personal sexual information that were unwanted or, whether wanted or not,
made by an adult.

Aggressive sexual solicitation: Sexual solicitations involving  offline contact with the
perpetrator through regular mail, by telephone, or in person or attempts or requests for
offline contact.

Unwanted exposure to sexual material: Without seeking or expecting sexual material,
being exposed to pictures of naked people or people having sex when doing online searches,
surfing the web, opening E-mail or E-mail links.

Harassment: Threats or other offensive behavior (not sexual solicitation), sent online to the
youth or posted online about the youth for others to see.

   With the numbers provided you can see clearly that this has gotten to be really bad. We need to do something about this. Our children can be solicited many different ways online like social networking sites, giving out their email address, chat rooms etc. Lets face it we cant be with our children 24 hours a day like we would like to be but we can try to protect them the best that we can by educating ourselves and them about the potential dangers that lurk around every corner of the Internet. I will go more into how we can do this a little later in this post but for now I want to cover the other dangers.

   To help prevent some of this from happening you should instruct your child to:
NEVER arrange any face-to-face meetings with anyone they meet online, even if they think it is another child. 
NEVER upload photo's of themselves to share with anyone that they meet online. 
NEVER give out personal information like name, address, phone number or school name etc. 
NEVER download anything that is sent to them via chat, email or any other form from someone they don't know or someone they have met online. And last but not least 
NEVER respond to obscene, belligerent, suggestive or harassing messages or bulletins as whatever they are told online may or may not be true!

   What to do if your child is being solicited

   Remember when I said that; 1 out of 4 children were exposed to unwanted naked photos or people having sex? Well this is from doing simple Internet searches and having some bad results come up. Have you ever tested this? Or possibly misspelled a word (I misspell a lot, Love spell check) in a search engine and have something come up that you didn't want to see? There are words now days that growing up meant other things like "Cougar" hmmm I thought that was a Wild Cat well come to find out now its more of a sexually explicit name for an older woman. 

   The point is times have changed and the Internet cant point out exactly what you want to see when you want to see it. There is just no way that the Internet search engine can honestly protect our children as much as they would like to. Google has done a ton to try to protect our children by not letting that type of material come up in the search engine without it being searched for directly but again its not something that is 100% unfortunately. 

   Now I want to cover Cyberbullying. Bullying has moved beyond the picking on people at school, on the playground and at the park etc. Now it is viral and is worse then ever. Bully's have taken it to Text Messaging, Social Networking sites and Chat Rooms just to name a few. We all know what Bullying is and we should stop it from happening to our kids. We can do the following:

  • Block communication with he bully.
  • delete messages without reading them.
  • report the problem to your Internet service provider, cell phone company or website moderator. (depending on where it is happening). If it is bad then contact your local law enforcement as well.
   Now the question is what do you do if your child is a bully? Lets face it some children are bully's if they weren't we wouldn't be having this conversation. There are a few ways to help your child that is bullying and remember there is a reason for them bullying most of the time, we just need to find out why!

Listen - We should start off by talking with them and ask them why they do it. Don't judge them just listen to what they have to say and let them speak their mind honestly with you. Once you figure out why they do it try to help them with whatever the cause is if you can if not find someone who can.

Respect, Empathy and Compassion - Try to get them to understand what the victim is going through, what they might be feeling while this bullying is going on and how they would feel if it was happening to them.

Boundaries - Set consequences for your child with clear boundaries and adhere to them when these boundaries are broken. Let your child know that you will not tolerate bullying in any way shape or form. Make your child apologize with the victim face-to-face.

Lead by Example - In difficult situations keep your cool. Model nonviolent behavior and give your child positive feedback when you see they are doing the right things.

Love and Support - This should be done regardless of if our children are bullying or not. Offer and seek support for your child. Remember we cant expect anything to change overnight this will take time so be patient with them even if you are angry or upset.

   We went over a lot of information on Internet and how it can help and hurt our children. I hope that you find this information beneficial. I know that we will never be able to completely end any of this even though I would love to be able to but we can definitely put a dent in it if we stay educated in it and teach our children. We need to take safety precautions to make sure our family is protected from everything including the Internet. I would suggest getting some type of Internet protection software to help protect your child.

   I did some research on a few of the Internet protection software programs that are out there to protect our children and I found one that has some pretty good reviews. I have never used this program so I am going by the reviews that I got online from other users. I did do a lot of research on it and most of them give it 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5 so I think it would definitely be worth looking into. I can tell you that some of the reviews that didn't rate it very high was because you need to renew it every year (new charge to you). You have to do this with Internet Security Software (Virus Protection), Tax Software etc. as well. They need the extra funds to help come out with new software due to the ever changing technology. Remember there are more products out there that do this and maybe some that are better then the one I am listing here but this one had the best reviews that I could find. I hope this helps.

Here is the program that I found that might help some of us.

   This software blocks harmful content like pornography and drugs or you can set your own preferences. It tracks, blocks and records instant messaging, email, and social networking communication. It will allow you to set time limits or times to when your child can be online. Prevents attempts to access blocked websites by alerting you by email, SMS (text message) or by phone when your child does try to access the websites. It includes 3 licenses so you can install it on up to 3 computer systems (most others I found are only one license) and it is compatible with Mac and Windows.
They have earned: PC Magazine Editors Choice Award, LapTop Magazine Editors Choice Award, 
Parents' Choice Approved.

As always I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments, suggestions and tips below. You can join this site by clicking on the "Join" button on the right of the page. Remember to share this with your friends and family so we can get all the safety tips and techniques out to everyone.

Thanks for visiting!

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