Internet Safety is a topic that most parents are very concerned about. Because many of us feel like we are fairly savvy when it comes to cyber-technology, we may have a bit of a false sense of security. The fact that we have been driving for decades doesn’t create a false sense of security when it comes to sending our teenagers out the door with the car keys. We make sure they are adequately trained. We make sure they are safe, even defensive, drivers. We should, in my estimation, exercise the same degree of caution when it comes to the Internet.
Actually, we probably need to exercise more caution. Our children generally spend much more time in front of the computer Instant Messaging, blogging and chatting in a day’s time than they will behind the wheel in a week’s time. The dangers are likely to be just as great, if not greater, in this environment. Two bits of information dramatically impress this reality on our minds:
(1) One in five children who use computer chatrooms has been approached over the Internet by pedophiles. (Detective Chief Superintendent Keith Akerman, Telegraph.co.uk January 2002).
(2) 89% of sexual solicitations were made in either chat rooms or Instant Messages. (Pew Study reported in JAMA, 2001).
In preparation for an upcoming presentation I’ll be making I’ve spent a few hours today learning about some of the available resources. One of the best informational and educational sites I’ve found is i-SAFE.org. i-SAFE Inc., is the worldwide leader in the Internet safety education. Founded in 1998 and endorsed by the U.S. Congress, i-SAFE is a non-profit foundation dedicated to protecting the online experiences of youth everywhere. i-SAFE incorporates classroom curriculum with dynamic community outreach to empower students, teachers, parents, law enforcement, and concerned adults to make the Internet a safer place. I’ve actually been familiar with this group and their web site for some time now. I have found it to be extremely helpful.
If readers will take the time to become a certified i-SAFE user (about one hour) you will gain access to a large arsenal of very helpful information. While there is information available for parents and grandparents, there is also an excellent line up of resources for general Internet safety. Some of the resources available deal with chat abbreviations; cyber bullying (an educator recommended addition to the curriculum); cyber security exercises; identity theft information and intellectual property guidelines.
Another excellent resource is in the person of Mark Strohm, Jr. Mark is the elementary school principal at Delaware County Christian School in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. He is well informed about what is going on with our youth, as well as what their challenges are with respect to the Internet. He has put together a Cyber Safety Seminar, which is quite informative. Many readers of this blog are outside of Mark’s normal travel parameters, but you can likely find similar resource people in your neighborhoods. Mark and his wife Ellen also author a blog for parents. It is: Loving Limits, Encouragement and Hope for Parents. I recommend that you check out both of these sites.
In addition to the preceding resources, I’ve found the following sites to have valuable Internet Safety information and training materials:
– ProtectKids.com (highly recommended)
What other tools or resources can you share with us? We’d like to hear about them.
In the mean time, let us all unite our hearts in prayer for a our children who are faced with a virtual avalanche of temptations and dangers as they interact with others on the world wide web.