Cyber Stranger Danger
By Anne Marie Bonness
Date: July 17, 2003
Summer means your kids have a lot of extra time...and most of them will use at least some of it online.
And while kids may know about "stranger danger" on the streets, they may not recognize it in its equally dangerous cyber form.
As they type away at the computer in the comfort of your home, your kids seem pretty safe, but four out of 10 are being sexually propositioned during their time spent online.
"If it's connected to the Internet, you have to think of that as a gateway. Someone can come into that child's room," says Mike Sanders of the Cyber Crime Unit of the Terre Haute Police Department.
The VanLandinghams from Terre Haute told us they do everything they can to protect their 13-year old daughter Claire.
They say they keep their computers in open view, talk to Claire about the dangers, and don't let her respond to messages from unfamiliar names.
"Do your best with your teaching, and hope they follow the rules no matter where they are...hope they use their brain...hope they use their common sense," says mom, Shannon VanLandingham.
The troubling thing is that kids may not be listening to their own common sense or their parent's good advice.
A study from the University of New Hampshire says that 50% of internet affairs with children involve kids who willingly take part even when they know better, and it can happen fast.
"Almost instantly...if they're not careful, almost instantly," says Sanders.
The best bets to protect your kids may be the ones that come with a fee. The Terre Haute Police Department says software like "Net Nanny," and "Cyber Sitter," as well as AOL Parental Controls, are very effective at controlling online activities.
And while certainly not full-proof, the programs are only about $30 and can offer parents who can't personally watch their kids every second, a welcome peace of mind.
Indiana law does not cover issues of cyber-stalking, but does cover internet harassment. Though no such cases are currently being investigated by the Terre Haute Police Department Cyber Crimes Unit, they do suggest that any serious problems your child runs into the internet should be reported to them immediately.
Original article: http://www.wthitv.com/newsdet.asp?id=3238
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