Sheriff’s Commentary: Being safe on the Internet

We are in the age of vast and continuously growing technology where our imagination can lead us to bigger and greater opportunities that at one time only dreamed of … but how far are we willing to go and at what cost does this growing technology come???It is said our future lies with our children, and so many say they want to leave this world a better place for their future generations to have, but again at what cost does this come with??As we sit at our computers to become “hip”, “up to date” or to be a part of the growing generations, do we have any idea of what is out there in the cyber world? Today, our internet is the communication of phone calls we use to make, the letters we use to write, the drive to the store to shop. You can find anything, anywhere, anytime of the day, it’s just a matter of sitting on that chair, or at a desk, and clicking a few keys and now you are in touch with everyone … but are you being smart?Do you monitor your children when they get online to chat with their friends, to update their myspace page, or to simply see what your children are googling? As a matter of fact all it takes is a simple miss of key strokes and they can turn the google search of “legos” to “legs” and now they have nude pictures and the list goes on from there. Some statistics for you from a recent survey: * 95% of parents didn’t recognize the lingo kids use to let people know that their parents are watching * 89% of sexual solicitations are made in either chat rooms or Instant Messages * 20% of children age 10-17 have been solicited sexually online; that’s 1 out of every 5 kids * 75% of youth who received an online sexual solicitation did not tell a parent * One third of kids have been contacted by a stranger and half of these were considered inappropriate * 81% of parents of online youth say that kids aren’t careful enough when giving out information about themselves online * 76% of parents don’t have rules about what their kids can do on the computer * 65% of parents believe that kids do things online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about * 4,000,000 children are posting content to the Web everyday * 15,000,000 youth use Instant Messaging * 9 out of 10 parents will never know that any inappropriate contact has occurred * 14% have actually met face to face with a person they have met on the InternetKeep our homes safe, enjoy our growing technology, but above all be smart and always ask questions. Here are some tips of how you can keep your home internet safe: * Become computer literate and learn how to block objectionable material. * Keep the computer in a common area, not in individual bedrooms, where you can watch and monitor its use. * Share an email account with your child so you can monitor messages. * Bookmark kids’ favorite sites for easy access. * Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior. * Forbid your child from entering private chat rooms; block them with safety features provided by your Internet service provider or with special filtering software. Be aware that posting messages to chat rooms reveals a user’s email address to others. * Monitor your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges. * Find out what, if any, online protection is offered by your child’s school, after-school center, friends’ homes, or anyplace where kids could use a computer without your supervision. * Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange. * Forward copies of obscene or threatening messages you or your kids get to your Internet service provider. * Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843-5678 if you’re aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography online. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI if your child has received child pornography via the Internet. It’s a great tool and the future will be even greater with our growing technology, but keep you and your family smart and safe.

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