The Internet is a very useful tool in today's society. However millions of kids are online, and many are unaware of the dangers that exist in the cyber world. In fact, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in five children have received unwanted sexual solicitation online. Of those who received solicitations, 49% did not report the incident to anyone, including parents. Unfortunately, these numbers continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to the FBI, online sexual solicitations have increased 2050% since 1996.
Surveys indicate that the majority of children have unsupervised access to the internet. Although most teens go online from multiple locations, 70% of unwanted sexual solicitations occurred when the youth was on their home computer. Additionally, 50% of teens reported emailing or instant messaging with someone they had not met before. Installing filters or controls will not automatically make your child safer online. Parents are well served to have discussions with their children about the dangers of the internet. Parents should also place the computer in a common area of the house, check their children's internet history, and know the meaning of popularly used acronyms.
Blogs are an example of how the internet transforms itself within a short period of time. Blogs have quickly replaced chat rooms as the most popular place for kids to hang out online. Blogs, short for "web-log", are an online journal or diary where users create their own web page, posting photos and sharing intimate details about their personal lives, thus making it easy for predators to find their prey. Users also belong to "blog rings" which are a network of friends who communicate online and share something in common, like their school. For example, most high schools and middle schools have their own blog rings. The most popular public blog sites are "My Space" and "Xanga". Additionally, these sites have given bullies a whole new forum, except now they can hide behind a computer. This new form of bullying is called "cyber-bullying" which causes a great deal of harm to individuals, thus creating conflict which usually gets played out on the school campus.
List of commonly used acronyms:
| ASL || Age, sex, location || IRL || In real life |
| BRB || Be right back || LOL || Laughing out loud |
| EG || Evil grin || OMG || Oh my gosh |
| F2F || Face to Face || POS || Parents over my shoulder |
| IM || Instant Message || WTGP || Want to go private? |
Online Safety Tips
Never respond to IMs or emails from people you don't know
Never give out personal information
Talk with parents about online activity
Report suspicious behavior to an adult or local police department
Never agree to meet someone in person that you first met online
Place computer in common area of house (i.e living room)
Have discussions about online safety with your children and create a family pledge
Be interested in their online activity
Check internet history and monitor online activity
Consider purchasing software to limit online access