Bumps on the info superhighway

By Staff
Jason Cannon, Franklin County Times
Over the past year the Internet has been at the core of an intense investigation aimed at snuffing out sexual predators.
You've probably seen the television specials, the champion of which has been Dateline's 'To Catch a Predator' series.
In this series the television news program is paired with Perverted Justice, a group who describes themselves as a tool for law enforcement officials to use in fighting sexual predators.
Basically, these adults pose as teens on Myspace.com, AOL's Instant Messenger or other online networking tools.
They engage in conversations with what usually turns out to be adult males.
Most often the Perverted Justice operative poses as a girl or boy between the ages of 13 and 16.
When the conversations become sexually charged, Perverted Justice swoops in with local SWAT teams.
So far, Perverted Justice claims they have been responsible for 179 convictions.
As a parent, I am concerned about what happens and can happen while children are on the Internet. According to Cyber Angels, a cyber space volunteer guardian group made up of technology specialists, law enforcement officers, educators, and others, by the time they reach the age of fourteen, 77 percent of children have been contacted by an online predator. However, only about 25 percent of these children tell their parents about their encounters with these predators, and less that 10 percent actually tell authorities about what occurred. Even more alarming, nearly 75 percent of children freely give out personal information online.
Shows like 'To Catch a Predator' have really raised my awareness about things like this happening.
Granted my daughter is only two-years-old, so this isn't a concern I'll have to face right now, but I'll have to face it one day.
There's a fine line between vigilance and fanaticism, but how can you protect your children without banning them from the Internet?
Most experts agree that one of the best things parents can do is to make sure the computer your children use to access the Internet is in a common room, like a living room or kitchen.
Not only can you peek in from time to time to see what's going on, it also helps you monitor how much time they spend online.
Another thing parents can do is make sure that your children know how important it is that they never give out personal information over the Internet, this includes phone numbers and addresses.
Ideally, children's screen names shouldn't include their first name, but in the event that it does they should never give out their last name.
There are thousands of other precautions parents can take but arming yourselves and your children with knowledge is the best thing you can do.
There are some sick people out there and it's our job as parents to make sure they stay as far away from our children as possible.