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Safety Net for kids

By Sarah MacDonald

Stop Crime The Internet has been a powerful educational tool, offering children libraries full of information right at their Web-surfing fingertips.

But there are dangers lurking online also.

"As wonderful as the Internet is, it also has a side effect where it becomes difficult in many situations," said Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating.

The Dedham Middle School Parent Group will host "Internet Safety for Parents," a workshop by staff members of Keating's office aimed at preventing Web-based crimes.

The topic is of interest to parents in town and around the country, said Cynthia Kelly, assistant principal at Dedham Middle School.

"I don't think parents are necessarily as savvy as their children are when it comes to computers," she said.

According to the district attorney's Web site, child sexual exploitation accounts for 20 percent of all Internet crime.

A Department of Justice study found that 20 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 will receive an unwanted sexual solicitation in any given year. The study was based on interviews with 1,501 children and found 97 percent of the solicitors were strangers. Seventy percent of the solicitations happened when the child was using their home computer.

"And it's growing. The kind of marketing that is done on the Internet is shocking," said Keating, who began the Internet workshops for parents, and other presentations for students, four years ago.

Young people online are also targets for con artists, drug dealers and bullies, Keating said.

With children using e-mail, messaging systems and chat rooms daily, there are a lot of opportunities for criminals, he said.

"There are a multitude of ways that these issues find their way into the courts," he said.

The Dedham workshop will focus on letting parents know how to keep their children out of trouble and away from harm, Keating said.

"Internet Safety for Parents" will start at 7 p.m. at Dedham Middle School on Whiting Avenue. Parents of elementary and high school students are also encouraged to attend.

Source: The Daily News Trascript

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