By Nickie Miller, CAC Prevention Specialist
As we ponder what to give to the loved ones in our lives at this season of giving, let us remember that the best gift is the one that says “you are special to me”. One way to show our kids how special they are to us is to give of our time and knowledge. Protecting our loved ones from Internet danger is a challenge for many adults. It demands that we become educated and aware of the dangers and do what we can to maintain our children’s safety.
Many adults today are like “digital immigrants”. Actually, some are still in the “old country”. It’s not just computers we have to learn about, it’s smart phones, I-pads, social networking, camcorders, online gaming, PDA’s, U-tube, Chat, IM, etc. As adept as they are at using all these devices, most children do not understand the risks. And even good, smart kids still do “goofy” things on the Internet. What was once yesterday’s futuristic fantasy has become today’s lifestyle. This is the digital age. This is cyberspace. And this is the world our children are growing up in. As with any technology, it can be used for good or evil. The amazing power of the Internet has been hijacked and used to invade the age of innocence every child deserves.
Almost 93% of kids, ages 12-17, are online. They are pressured to post provocative pictures, videos, and blog about personal experiences in a very public forum. Few are thinking through the implications of their online actions and get very little guidance from parents and educators. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. Child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S. right now.
In this ever-changing world, parents must be the “front line of defense” against child Internet victimization. The challenge is for adults to develop digital proficiency, but often we are overwhelmed, uninformed, or ill-equipped to adequately protect kids online. The good news is that the basics you need to keep kids safe are simply to talk to them about Internet safety and share basic safety rules.
Enough Is Enough (EIE) has been the leading Internet safety organization since 1994. EIE is a non-profit organization that works to make the Internet safer for children and families. Internet Safety 101 is a widely renowned resource and teaching series, developed by EIE, which strives to educate and empower parents, educators, and other caring adults with the information they need to protect children in the digital world from Internet dangers including pornography, predators, and cyberbullies. Its premise is that any child with unrestricted internet access is at risk for solicitation from online predators. Our homes are where the sex industry is grooming our youth. Adults are given 10 basic rules and 8 tools, essential strategies to counter these dangers. You will gain information, skills and confidence to effectively protect children on all Internet-enabled devices.
The Child Advocacy Center has available the DVD series and workbooks for Internet Safety 101. The 3 hour program is being offered to groups and organizations by reservation. Call the CAC at 486-9700 to request a training session with a CAC staff member or volunteer at no cost. It’s a gift you owe to yourself for the children in your life.