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Insight from WFPD: Parents key to overseeing Internet usage

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If you don't talk to your kids about online predators who will? The answer is very simple, the online predator. You do not need to be a computer wizard, or even understand what terms like asl or pos really mean. You do need to take time to talk to your children about what the Internet world really is like. It is not a fantasy land or an entirely safe land. It can be a very dangerous place for a child to spend their time. Being involved and talking to your children about the risks and rules can make their Internet experience safe and enjoyable.

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The first thing every parent needs to know is, there are those on the web that are looking specifically for children. Children with time on their hands and no pos. (parent over shoulder). Talk to your kids and let them know that under no circumstances can they give out their home address, phone number, school information, full name, or anything descriptive about themselves, friends, or family members. Also to be very careful answering asl (age, sex, location). Make sure your child understands that under no circumstances is it safe to meet someone face to face that they met online. People are rarely who they say they are. Have your child use a nickname instead of their real first name, and never use a last name.

Try to make computer time for your child family time. Have your child show you the activities they are engaged with. Put the computer in the family room rather than allowing your child to keep it in the bedroom. Get to know your child's online friends. Make sure your child understands that it's ok for them to come to you with any suspicious messages, and it's not their fault they got them. These predators will bombard numerous children with messages until they find the one that answers them. These predators will come at your child in many different ways. They may pose as a friend, someone who has been there, and understands them. Also as a parent figure trying to give advice, and meet them to console them. They will say they are 15 when in fact they are 40. These predators will say and promise anything to get your child to meet them.

The most common place that these predators will look for children are the online chat rooms. One of the newest trends is for these predators to meet children while playing video games online. The Wii, Xbox, and Playstation seem harmless enough, but anytime your child is online there is someone looking to make contact with them. The predator will make comments about the game, and then get your child to chat with them either then or later.

These online predators are not just some beady-eyed, scary person. These people come from all walks of life, every profession you can imagine, from white-collar to blue-collar positions. The number of images/movies reviewed at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is 317,988. These are images of children losing their innocence, and each and every time that image is passed from one predator to another, that child is victimized again and again. That number of over 317,000 images reviewed is very impressive for an annual number. The sad fact is, that number is from July 26 to Aug 1 of this year. This is a scary time in our world, when a child goes online to play a video game or chat with friends and gets caught up in a chatting situation things spiral out of control. The Internet can be a great place for education, information, and socializing. Just follow the several suggested guidelines outlined, and as always, please call your local law enforcement agency with any questions or concerns.

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