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Why You Should Care

Kids are using the Internet more and more these days, and as wise parents and adults, we know that there are dangers lurking out there. We worry about sexual deviants, we worry about stalkers, and we worry about our kids getting into illegal gambling or hooking up with a bad group of people online. Did you realize that those aren’t the only dangers that present themselves every time your child logs onto the Internet?

Of course, we know all about how predators use chat rooms, message boards, and social networking sites to target children and teens, but did you know that you child may be targeted by a peer? Bullying used to be the bit worry at school, but now it has moved to the Internet. An Internet bully can be someone your child knows or someone who is just out to do it for kicks. They might send threatening emails, instant messages, or post false or damaging information on boards frequented by your child.

Another huge danger that lurks for kids on the Internet is the danger of Internet addiction. It may sound silly, but kids can become addicted to the Internet just like they can get hooked on drugs or alcohol. There are even centers for Internet addiction rehab, with China leading the way. Whatever the vice, the Internet has an addiction, whether it is gambling, auction sites, or adult material. Kids who are addicted to the Internet show some of the same signs of addiction that drug addicts exhibit. Withdrawal is similarly severe, with symptoms like shakes and in some cases physical sickness.

As kids spend more and more time online, advertisers take notice. Have you ever done a search for something and noticed the little advertisements on the side of the screen? Those don’t get there accidentally. Advertisers are finding extremely specific ways to target advertising towards children. Many advertisers try as hard as they can to gain your kids’ attention in an attempt to sway their patterns of thought. There’s a lot of money in the ‘guilt purchase’, so they’re constantly after kids to pester their parents into buying the latest plastic toy. Research has shown that kids who are constantly barraged with advertising not only recognize brand names and logos, but form brand loyalty at a very young age. Kids see the logo or character on the Internet, then they see it in the store and want it.

You also cannot ignore the fact that teens are curious and children often don’t have the good judgment to not click on certain advertisements or emails. Adult oriented material is all over the Internet, or as one popular song circulated on viral video sites states, “the Internet is for porn”. While not every site on the Internet is porn or porn related, there certainly is no shortage of sites out there, including many with misleading names. These sites have names that would suggest an innocent subject matter, but have intentions far from innocent.

With all of these threats coming from the Internet, parents and guardians must be vigilant as to what their kids are viewing on the Internet. Educate your kids about the dangers of meeting strangers online. Let them know that if they are contacted by someone they don’t know, they can tell you about it. Let them know that you are interested in their on line activity because you want to protect them from everything that can hurt them. Parenting responsibly is difficult, but with a little patience and discernment, you will succeed.

Have a great day!

Lawrence

What Concerns Parents Most

There are too many issues related to Internet safety for kids to list all in one article, but the big ones warrant mentioning several times over. Parents are concerned about their kids doing too much on the Internet, getting into trouble, or even becoming addicted to online activity.

Many teens, when interviewed, have admitted that they use the Internet quite a bit. Some have even stated that they would not be able to live their lives in a normal fashion if they could no longer access the Internet. Indeed, many teens’ interpersonal connections may be lost without the ability to instant message or post on social forums, and this is what worries parents about their kids using the Internet.

As we move into the 21st century, parents are becoming more aware that the current generation of kids is the first generation to experience life without the absence of computers. Every generation in the past has had to live without computers and the Internet except for this one. More troubling still is that this new generation of youth seems unwilling or unable to forge real personal connections to other human beings without the use of the Internet. Some members of the older generation may feel that kids today never write letters anymore, or don’t know how to go out and enjoy the outdoors without the sounds of airplanes overhead, traffic from the Interstate, and a cell phone attached to their hip.

Parents worry about how much their kids use the Internet because of all of these things, but above all, the chance for a very real predator to present themselves in the online (fantasy) world. Teenagers take full advantage of the anonymity of the Internet and often present themselves in different lights to different people. This can be seen as nothing more than testing the waters of the real world to see who they are really comfortable being.

Striking up conversations with strangers isn’t unheard of for most of America’s teenage population. Unfortunately, even the most technically savvy teen can be a little naive when it comes to revealing personal details to strangers online. Teens on the whole are careful, but many slip up. Most have responded to an instant message from a stranger or forged a relationship of some sort with someone they have never met before.

Scarier than your teenager initiating contact with a predator is the thought of a predator contacting your teen. It is nothing difficult to put together a string of search criteria and come up with a kid’s profile. An online profile is something that a teenager fills out on their own, and either completely lies or puts down accurate information. Giving a stranger information like where they live, what their interests and hobbies are, or even physical descriptions is commonplace in the teen community.

Of all the concerns that parents have regarding Internet use among teenagers, the most severe is (or should be) how easily a stranger can find them. Too many kids are too trusting online, and those that would take advantage of that trust are too many. Parents must strike a balance between healthy concern and nosiness, but we must all err on the side of caution– even if your kids don’t like it.

Have a great day!

Lawrence