By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Internet hazards for kids
Placeholder Image
Many parents are unaware of the potential risks presented by allowing their children uncontrolled access to the Internet. On one hand, it is an indispensable tool that, in order for a young person to function in this "modern era," really should have complete familiarity. The Internet has many great resources that can be beneficial to a child's education. It is important for kids to be able to use the Internet as a researching tool and in preparation for "the real world." The downside of the Internet is that it contains an immeasurable amount of information, pictures, videos, voice recordings and access to people who can bring harm to your children.

A person in a chat room can be whomever and whatever they want to be. It's all anonymous, so if a child predator wants to connect with an underage victim, they can do so - unless parents are keeping an eye on things. Child predators use schemes and tactics, which, over the course of days or weeks, can dupe a child into believing that they can trust that individual or, that they feel sorry for them and want to help them. These interactions can lead to an arranged meeting with the suspect traveling many miles to accomplish their goal. Or, just in conversation, your child can unknowingly give strangers information that would give clues to how a predator may be able to find them in person (e.g. what school they go to, where they play sports, etc.). More often than not, the child victims are sexually molested. In some instances they are kidnapped and even murdered.

Another feature of the Internet is the ability to have live webcam conferences between users. Child predators may use these systems to entice their victims to disrobe or to look at them as they perform obscene acts. Of course, this is another activity that parents must watch for and monitor closely.

On their own, kids have no problem accessing explicit pornography and other materials that are not in theirs or the parent's best interests. It is an area of concern that needs to be watched, and perhaps more importantly, needs to be taught as a behavior that is totally unacceptable.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in seven kids "are approached or sexually solicited over the Internet." With this statistic, the need for addressing the problem is quite clear. Parents need to know what is going on, can invest in filtering software, continually communicate with their kids about their "online lives" and generally keep close tabs on what's going on in their kids' lives. Also, keep in mind that cell phone texting is also becoming a tool for child sexual predators, so while phones are helpful in keeping children safe, they are also a new gateway into their lives.

It is impossible for a parent to keep track of their child's every interaction, but they can continue to stay up with technology, be educated on current issues, and have open communication with their children. The key is finding the right balance where parents are actively involved in their child's life so they can monitor their activities and keep them out of harm's way.