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Hey, It Will Never Happen To Me!
By Patricia Ouellette

So many times we hear people say, "It will never happen to me!" or "She’ll be right, I know what I’m doing!" When we consider the fact that we do not have the ability to see into the future, these comments are really being said tongue-in-cheek.

Unfortunately, we can’t afford to take that attitude with our children’s safety.

The Internet is a wonderful resource. It is fantastic for our kids for their education and entertainment. It is a wonderful way for them to see how the rest of the world live and compare lifestyles with others of their peer group from many nations.

My own daughter has grown so much through the avenues open to her on the Internet. Her education has been broadened and it has also helped her expand her literacy skills. She is able to communicate with friends who have moved to other parts of the country and also with her siblings and family who reside overseas.

As wonderful as it is, there is also an element that we all should be highly aware of. E-Crime, or Electronic Crime, is a new field that our law enforcement agencies are struggling to cope with. One area in particular involves pedophilia, sex crimes and other personal violation crimes, such as stalking.

A True Story …

A few years ago I was teaching a mother of teenagers how to use her computer via the Internet. I gave her a series of lessons from basic uses of the computer, to maintenance and Internet use. On the last week of her lessons I asked her if she would like me to show her how to keep tabs on her teens’ Internet usage and why I suggested this. I sent her documentation from the FBI site that I had found in my research, and also some other material on how to protect your children while they are online.

It was not so that she could spy on them, but a measure of responsible supervision and protection for her children. It is a fine line between protection and spying in this instance, but it is very necessary. However, she declined.

Two months later I learned that her daughter had been talking to an adult male who had disguised himself in the chat rooms as a teenage girl. The teenager had not given any personal details outright, but had given little tidbits of information throughout their conversations. It was enough for him to be able to locate her.

In this instance the girl was very fortunate that her friends refused to let her go meet this person alone. It is believed that the loyalty of her friends was the teenager’s only saving grace from disaster.

No one wants their child to go through such a terrifying ordeal, when it can so easily be avoided.

In conclusion I urge you to throw away any idea that "it will never happen to me." You never know to whom your children are talking. Please be wise and keep your supervision strictly in place and the lines of communication open with your children.

Tips …
  1. Supervision and regular checks of what sites your children are visiting is very important
  2. Go into the chat rooms favored by your kids and sit and watch for a while and see if anything rings your alarm bells.
  3. Be sure to talk to your children and teens about Internet safety. I encourage you to go to the FBI Child Protection Program site and take some time to read the statistics and some of the great advice given.
  4. Practice stranger danger protocols online as well as on the streets.
  5. Periodically, go and look at what your kids are doing. If they hide the screen, explain why it is important that you know what they are doing and to whom they are chatting.
  6. Never, under any circumstances, use the computer or Internet as a babysitter for young children.
  7. All pre-teen children should be continually supervised while they are on the Internet.
  8. Use a locking device on your computer if your children are home before you get home from work.
  9. Set rules, guidelines and consequences for computer and Internet use in your home.
  10. Keep your computer in a family area of the home and not in a bedroom where you cannot keep a close eye on your children’s Internet use.
  11. Role-play a chat room scenario with your kids, to show them how easy it is to gain enough information to locate someone. This is a great tool for teaching safe conversation and awareness of what you say.

Facts From The FBI – Free to use publication …
  1. Incidents of child molestation that can be directly linked to online contact have risen at a terrifying rate. As a result the FBI now labels online Chat Rooms as "Virtual Playgrounds for Pedophiles."
  2. Teens use the Internet an average of 8.5 hours per week, and only 1.8 of those hours are related to schoolwork. (PRNewswire)
  3. 70% of sexual offenders, who commit crimes linked to the Internet, get away with an average of 30 such crimes before being caught.
  4. Criminals roam the Internet just as they roam the streets. The anonymous nature of the online relationship allows users to misrepresent their age, gender or interests, to reach into the home and befriend a child (rep. Bill McCollum, R-Fla).
  5. Pedophiles and other sexual predators have tapped into the Internet as one of the most prevalent ways to recruit children for sex. A child does not know if he is chatting with a 14-year-old or a 40-year-old. (Steven Wiley/FBI Violent Crimes Chief)
  6. Children online are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. Offenders spend their evenings online trying to locate and lure children. Computer sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child online, they will continue to communicate electronically, often via email. (FBI Library)
  7. While a child may have been taught never to give out a home phone number, computer-savvy stalkers will always give out their own number, and then urge the child to phone collect. Of course, when the child calls, the stalker is able to learn their number either from Caller ID, or a phone bill. (FBI Library)
  8. Dozens of web sites exist for the sole purpose of teaching children step-by-step techniques for deleting, defeating, or circumventing blocking and filtering software.
Facts compiled by Federal Bureau of Investigation – Crimes Against Children Program.

For more information see The FBI Publication, A Parents Guide to Internet Safety – http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguide.htm
Trish Ouellette is a wife and step-mother of seven glorious children and three grand children. Trish and her husband Jim, run a small computer business from home, as well as two large Internet ministries, which keep her busy designing websites, fixing, upgrading and building computers and teaching computer and Internet technology. With every minute of her spare time she explores her talents in writing and art, which is available to view on her personal website Christ Driven Brush & Pen http://christdriven.evangel-list.com.
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