Friday, June 26, 2009

Are you on cyber patrol?

The digital age has projected us into an unprecendented time of social networking. Sending a quick email or text message often is easier than calling someone. Most children have cell phones and computers in their rooms. Cell phones have given parents a sense of security being able to get in touch with their child anywhere. Computers have given families immediate access to information on any subject imaginable.

Along with the wonders of the digital age come the dangers as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics cites reports that that 1 in 5 teens are involved in inappropriate behavior online. Known as "sexting", teens are at risk of being victimized by sexual predators. You have heard reports many times on the news of a teen who has met someone online and goes off to meet this new "friend" putting themselves many times in grave danger. Predators can easily find a child if they happen to list where they go to school along with posting their photo online.

Unfortunately anything that has been posted on the internet sites such as Facebook can remain online even if you have removed it. You never know who may have saved that piece of information on their computer and send it over the airwaves in the future.

We join the AAP in advising parents to sit down with their children and discuss proper behavior online as well as potential dangers. Use parental controls and don't be afraid to do an internet search for your child. Search by their login name as well as their given name. This will help you get an idea of what information is out in the cyber world.

Many people do not think long term. What may have been placed online 7 years ago might be found by an employer doing an internet search on a potential candidate. Unfortunately the internet is a lot like Las Vegas...what happens there stays there.

Stay on “internet” patrol. Check your child’s online activities. If they are on Facebook or other networking sites, insist that they "friend" you so you can monitor their interactions. Look at what they post. Check what they download on their phone. Watch your cell phone bills to see who and how often your child is texting. Kids who have the "parent patrol" are more likely to think twice about what they are posting online.

Although we don't recommend computers in your child's room we do recommend you think carefully before giving your teen a laptop with wireless access that they can take with them to a friend's house or a retail establishment that offers wi-fi.

You may read the AAP's article on sexting at:
http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/june09socialmedia.htm

Additional info may also be found at:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101109/ap_on_he_me/us_med_teens_texting

Photo courtesy of: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sinfony/3466599002/

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