August 1, 2008

Online Risks Focus of Gathering


By Tanaya McLemore

Teen correspondent


The Internet is here to stay. And tweens and teens need to be able to navigate it safely.

That was the message last week during Cox Communications' Internet Safety Summit, hosted by Cox's Take Charge program, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and . The summit's in its fourth year.

Fifteen students from across the country were selected to attend the event by either writing winning essays or being leaders in their communities. This was the first year the Teen Summit was extended to tweens, ages 8-12.

Some key points at the summit were parental involvement, communication, cyber-bullying, social networking, personal and friends' situations, and online predators.

"The Internet is much like the Garden of Eden; there are many fruits of knowledge, but also many serpents," said Rhode Island's Patrick Lambert, 17.

John Walsh of the long-running television program, "America's Most Wanted," and Lauren Nelson, Miss America 2007, led a discussion at the National Press Club. Here, students got involved by answering questions and giving their personal perspectives on the issue.

While the students were at the summit, their parents attended a workshop, where they were shown by NetSmartz about how easy it is to find information about someone with just an e-mail address. They learned that Internet usage is important, but must be used with caution.

Some key findings presented at the summit included: 90 percent of tweens use the Internet by age 9, 1 in 5 tweens have posted information about themselves, and 28 percent of tweens have been contacted online by a stranger.

During the three-day event, students broke into small groups, and many met with their legislators on Capitol Hill. The Virginia- Washington, D.C., group - including Skylar Behn, 10, from Northern Virginia, Khadijah Johnson, 14, from Roanoke, and I - met with Michael Sozan, U.S. Sen. Jim Webb's legislative director. In the brief meeting, the findings from the summit and our shared experiences were discussed.

The following day, a few selected students were able to meet with Kevin J. Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to reiterate the importance of keeping kids safe online.

On the final night at a Cox-hosted dinner, everyone had a chance to share their favorite moment of the trip when a microphone was passed around. Laughs and tears filled the room; parents spoke about watching their children mature during the summit.

Roanoke's Khadijah said: "It was an eye-opening experience and a great opportunity that I won't forget." I couldn't agree more.

Read Ida Kay Jordan's profile on Tanaya in Sunday's Currents, the community news section for Portsmouth readers.

Tanaya McLemore, a rising freshman at Sweethaven Christian Academy in Portsmouth, [email protected]


Social networking is a popular source of entertainment and communication, but you must be careful about the personal information you put on your profile because it may cause harm to you or others.

Originally published by BY TANAYA MCLEMORE.

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