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The Internet: How to Keep Your Kids Safer


(ARA) - Kids are way ahead of adults when it comes to the digital world. Three in five children under the age of 18 -- and more than 78 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 -- go online. Yet very little is known about the potential dangers kids can face while surfing the Internet.

A survey of the online experiences of teens and preteens, who use the Internet on a regular basis, was conducted in 1999 for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children by the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center. The final report included the following statistics: - Approximately one in five kids received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet in the last year.

- One in 33 received an aggressive sexual solicitation -- a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere, called them on the telephone or sent mail, money or gifts.

- One in four had an unwanted exposure to pictures of naked people or people having sex in the last year.

- One in 17 was threatened or harassed.

- Less than 10 percent of sexual solicitations were reported to authorities such as a law-enforcement agency, an Internet service provider, or a hotline.

The NetSmartz Workshop was created to address the need for Internet safety education in an unprecedented way. The NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive educational resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Boys & Girls Clubs of America (B&GCA) for children aged 5 to 17, parents, and educators that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet. “This is an innovative, proactive program that is intended to extend the safety awareness of children, increase their online self-confidence, and prevent victimization,” says Amy Ruttkamp of the Boys & Girls Clubs. The NetSmartz Workshop is divided into three sections.

NetSmartz Kids: Children aged 5 to 6 are introduced to Clicky who teaches children about dangers on the Internet, how to avoid them, and how to practice good “netiquette.” Clicky introduces children to the “Webville Outlaws” who represent different Internet dangers. Children aged 7 to 9 are introduced to Nettie and Webster, two Internet kids, who talk to children about online risks and introduce them to the “WizzyWigs,” creepy characters who represent Internet dangers.

NetSmartz Teens: The goal of NetSmartz Teens is to help teenagers learn how to use the Internet more safely. This section contains a real-life example of a teen who encountered dangers online. In the future this site will provide safety tips and surveys about personal safety on the Internet.

Parents and Educators
Parents and educators can access the Web site to get on- and offline activities and ideas for teaching Internet safety so that they can help their children and/or students avoid the risks they face online. Parents and educators are provided with relevant and current information on Internet safety issues that affect children. It is critical that children, parents, and educators inform themselves about the potential dangers that children can face online. Begin by teaching your children the three rules for Internet safety.

1. I will tell an adult I trust if something makes me feel scared, uneasy, or confused.
2. I will not meet online friends in person.
3. I will ask an adult I trust before sharing my personal information.

For the NetSmartz Workshop, visit www.NetSmartz.org. For information about Boys & Girls Clubs of America, go to www.bgca.org. More information on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children can be found at www.missingkids.com. (Courtesy of ARA Content)