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Raskin talks straight on Internet safety

By Staff | Apr 17, 2008

Robin Raskin

Parents: You might be just in the next room, but do you know with whom your child is “chatting” on the computer? Is it another 11-year-old child? Or is it a 45-year-old convicted sex offender posing as another 11-year-old child?

The problem is, there isn’t any way for you to really know.

Robin Raskin, nationally recognized technology expert and former editor of PC Magazine, told parents how they could make the Internet safer for their children in her presentation during the fourth annual Emmet County Family Resource Fair and Fun Night Tuesday at the Regional Wellness Center.

While there are dangers lurking on the Internet, it’s not practical to stop children from using computers altogether. Children really need computer skills in order to survive in today’s world.

Unfortunately, some children have developed “bad habits” as they wander the cyber jungle. As lines have become blurred between home, work, and school with on-line media available 24 hours a day, children find themselves venturing to the other side of the world without leaving their own home.

While technology has changed drastically in the last 15-20 years, teenagers really have not, Raskin said. They are still prone to suffering from low self-esteem and are willing to take dares and bets. When those characteristics are combined with technology, the mix can spell trouble.

Unfortunately, the time when youth go on-line to “chill out”, between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m., is also the most dangerous time for Internet predators. Just surf the Web for something seemingly innocent, and you’ll often find yourself inundated by pornography. That’s because porn vendors are casting a broad net so children will “hit” their sites without really trying.

So what’s the solution?

Particularly with children under 12, parents can install filters that will help reduce cybersleeze. While filters may not catch everything, they’re certainly better than doing nothing.

Parents can also keep computers in a well-trafficked area. That will help discourage children from looking at inappropriate sites with Mom or Dad just next door.

Call it cybersnooping if you want, but parents can also have an open door policy with their children. “You can use the Internet anytime you want if I can check and see what it is you’re looking at anytime I want, deal?” They might whine, but stick to your guns, because your kid made a deal too.

Parents can also search history files to see what it is that their children have been viewing.

Above all, let your children know that they can turn to you if they make an inappropriate on-line contact.

Raskin also noted a number of Internet trends. As users are getting younger, the use of E-mail is quickly waning and Instant Messaging is increasing. More video and photos are being used. Users have more control; however, the whole idea of privacy has changed, making dangers of which we are not aware.

Raskin encourages parents to continue to take advantage of system updates which include filters and other protective features. If there should be a threat of bodily harm, remember that is a chargeable offense and the police or FBI should be contacted immediately.

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