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How to Keep Kids and Teens Safe on the Internet

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RISMEDIA, August 28, 2007-We teach our children to be safe in the real world — to look both ways before crossing a street, not to talk to strangers and other valuable life lessons. Parents also need to teach pre-schoolers, tweens and teenagers how to be safe on the Internet.

“It’s inevitable that young people, especially teens, are going to congregate on the Internet in chat rooms, on message boards and on social networking Web sites. It’s up to us as parents to equip them with the knowledge that will keep them safe online and still allow them to enjoy this technology,” said Edward J. Murray, president and CEO of Faith & Values Media, a non-profit organization that is the nation’s largest coalition of faith groups dedicated to electronic media production.

Here are some handy tips to help ensure your child’s safety on the Internet:
• Monitor computer usage. You wouldn’t let your kids go out at all hours to places unknown. Apply that same standard to their Web use. Be aware of the sites they visit, at what times, and for how long.
• Install firewalls and virus protection software, and consider installing the specialized software that restricts access to inappropriate or pornographic Web sites.
• Respect your child’s privacy, but be sure to ask with whom they are exchanging e-mails and instant messages. You don’t need to read their e-mails, but it’s important to know who their cyber buddies are.
• Making new friends in cyberspace is great, but children should be taught not to assume people are safe just because they appear nice online. Remind them that people aren’t always who they say they are. Teach children never to meet anybody in person whom they discovered online.
• Teach them never to share personally identifiable information – such as their name, address, phone number, passwords, school, etc. – when they are using bulletin boards, chat rooms or social networking sites.
• If your teen has a personal page on a social networking site like MySpace or FaceBook, visit it to see what they have posted about themselves and their activities. These pages are public and can be viewed by anyone on the Internet.
• All social networking sites aren’t the same. Most of these services allow anybody to set up personal pages and create networks of friends they haven’t met in the physical world. Others, such as YouthRoots.com, offer greater supervision by moderating kids’ activities online. Designed specifically for leaders of faith-based youth groups and their students, YouthRoots.com is a place where real-world friends and groups interact in a secure online environment.
• Teach kids to be open about sharing their online experiences with you. If they receive inappropriate emails, they need to know not to respond and to share them with you. If they see something on a Web site that upsets or scares them, they need to let you know. Assure them that you will not blame them for having encountered something disturbing in cyberspace.

“The Internet will continue to be a central fact of contemporary life. Today’s young people will use it extensively in their adult lives. It is a terrific resource that helps them learn about the world around them and when used responsibly it can be a great tool to help them connect with their friends and peers,” stressed Murray, whose non-profit Faith & Values Media, founded the YouthRoots.com community site for youth group leaders and their young members.

For more information, visit www.YouthRoots.com.

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