September 30, 2008

New Cybersafety Program Touted


Keeping kids safe online is its goal.

A new Internet safety program that would help keep children from being exposed to sexually explicit material and predators will be available soon to area schools, churches and youth groups.

The Crime Commission is preparing to launch its "Cyber-Safety" program this fall to teach children the potential dangers of being online, program coordinator Kim Wiles said.

The program was developed after the commission surveyed educators about what crime-prevention programs were needed for children.

"About 85 percent said they wanted Internet safety," Wiles said.

Many children's after-school computer use is not closely monitored by an adult, and what they see online is not always suited for young children, she said.

Studies have suggested that one in five children has received a sexual solicitation or approach while online and that one in 17 has been threatened or harassed online.

The program, which is expected to be available by November, is geared for elementary and middle school students, Wiles said.

One of the biggest concerns for children online is the personal information they put on their profiles on popular Web sites such as MySpace, said Sgt. Tim Stadler of the Tulsa Police Department's Cyber Crimes Unit.

Stadler believes that parents should not allow their children who are younger than high school age to place their profiles or personal information online, but officers in the Cyber Crimes Unit are seeing more children in elementary school post their profiles.

"Kids that young are going to do that stuff, so the best thing you can do is to teach them the dangers that exist on the Internet," he said.

To stay safe online, children should keep their profiles private - - that is, allow only family members and friends to view them, he said.

Stadler also advises parents to require their children to give them the names of everyone who can view their profiles, and they should know who those people are.

Children should never allow adults who are not family members to view their profiles, he said.

Unrelated adults' interest in children's profiles is "a huge danger sign," Stadler said.

"Profiles should not be viewed to the world. That makes it difficult for an Internet predator to find them."

The Cyber-Safety program will encourage children to report any sexually explicit material they receive while online to their parents or a trusted adult, Wiles said.

A recent study by researchers from the University of New Hampshire found that 42 percent of Internet users ages 10 to 17 have viewed pornography online. The same study showed that two-thirds of the 1,500 Internet users surveyed -- most ages 13 to 17 -- did not want to see pornographic images and did not seek them out.

Wiles encouraged parents to install software on their home computers to prevent their children from receiving sexually explicit material. She also urged them to require their children to give them their passwords and user names so they can view their "history" on the Internet.

Internet safety

Tips for parents and guardians on monitoring their children's use of the Internet and e-mail:

Place the home computer in a room that is frequently used so it can be seen easily by family members.

Install blocking, monitoring and filtering applications on the computer.

Set reasonable rules about the time of day and length of time children can use the Internet and people with whom they can communicate.

Encourage your children to come to you when they encounter problems online. Reassure them that when they encounter something disturbing online, it is not their fault.

Before signing up with an Internet service provider, research the effectiveness of its spam filters.

Teach children not to open spam or e-mails from people they don't know.

Ensure that children don't respond to any online communication in a sexually provocative way.

Sources: Tulsa Police Department, the Crime Commission and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

David Schulte 581-8367

[email protected]

Originally published by DAVID SCHULTE World Staff Writer.

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