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Special Report: Stranger Danger (Pt. 3)

READ MORE: Special Report: Stranger Danger (Pt. 3)
View part 1 and part 2 of our Special Report: Stranger Danger
WILMINGTON -- Child predators no longer lurk outside playgrounds, trying to get your child alone. Now, they come into your home. Despite all the locks and alarms you may have they can still get inside, thanks to the internet. When Melissa Kirkby looked at the MySpace page of one of her daughter's friends she was shocked. The World Wide Web is a tool where children can openly express themselves. But what they share online could be seen by someone waiting to prey on them. If that isn't scary enough, or proof enough for a parent, there was another study in 2005 that said 77 percent of parents did not have rules about the internet. So how do you give your child guidelines about the internet that they will follow? Child psychologist Scott Crowder said, "If your teen really wants a MySpace page, let's sit down and look at MySpace. I'd like you to show me the pictures you'd like to put on MySpace, and I'd like to see your friend list. Let's look at your friends' pages. Both child psychologist Scott Crowder and detectives with the New Hanover County sheriff's office say communication is key. As for Melissa, she allows her children some internet freedom, but she does not allow her son or daughter access to MySpace and Facebook. She and her husband also keep a close eye on what sites her children visit so their children won't be the target of a predator. There's another way to monitor what your children do online. You can pick up a free computer disk called "computer cop" at local sheriff offices and police departments. It will tell you what websites and chat rooms have been visited by that computer.

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stranger danger

It's far too common and rediculous in my mind that parents let their children roam free on the internet. It's almost the same as leaving your children home alone, or letting a 4 year old roam free in a mall. This is just another chapter on how irresponsible parents have can't blame the internet for that. The fact is the technology these kids are using is not hard to learn by any means, people are just too lazy to learn it.

Lazy?? Technology is way too technical

I wouldn't say it's a matter of parents being lazy. Unless you are a computer professional or have buku bucks to afford fully automated pc security software and hiring high-quality customized tech support (telephone and on-site), you just can't keep up. Parents have livings to earn, children to raise, homes to manage, etc. and literally don't have time to deal with all the security and malware issues that can affect home computing -- which threats, by the way are constantly adapting and changing. The proliferation of spam, spyware and adware, even on what is otherwise considered well-known mainstream "respectable" sites (like Yahoo!™) is absolutely mind-blowing -- fueled by the millions and billions of $$ such things profit the sponsoring dot-coms.

To complicate the issue, most older children and teens know *waaayyy* more about the Internet and how to camouflage their online activities than their parents do. There are even websites out there which instruct them how to retrieve passwords, disable parental control software and otherwise delete or hide their websurfing tracks. It's sad but true that a lot of kids get into mischief online because that's where they *want* to be...The child the parents *think* they know; and that same child as they interact with their peers on Myspace and other social networking sites is often two different people...The obscene language, the trashy so-called "music" videos, animated .gifs and photos bordering on pornography and scads of off-color humor, etc. often come as an extreme shock to the parents who do find out. I've seen it happen all too often.

Not to justify the online perpetrators who take advantage of the teen rebellious years (not at all); but much of the real solution to this problem lies in the quality of the parent-teen relationship and the family's relationship with God -- not in some technological online filtering software. Parents need to spend more time -- quality time -- with their kids, sharing their values and what's important to them in life (and why), and getting their kids' honest feedback. It's a true saying that values are better caught than taught: the old, "do-as-I-say,-not-as-I-do" authoritarian approach never works. Kids don't expect perfection, but they're understandably allergic to hypocrisy.