Profiles, pictures, and journals. It looks innocent enough and it can be when used safely. But parents need to be aware of the hidden dangers within websites like My Space, Xanga and Tagworld. "Teenagers love to talk. Girls love to talk and if they don't have a healthy outlet in other ways, they may go look for it in a blog and may give information that can come back to harm them," says Sara Wilson.
Wilson is a specialist for Lubbock I.S.D. safe and drug free schools and communities. She's helping to educate school counselors on the dangers of these sites. Think your kid isn't using one of these sites? Think again. We found more than 1,000 Lubbock teens on My Space alone. We found them by searching for the school, they listed on their profiles. Take a look at the numbers of users per high school and that's only the teens ages sixteen and up.
But it's not only who's on online, it's what they're putting online that's making a difference. We found pictures of teens in suggestive poses and clothing, discussions of alcohol and drug use, where they like to socialize and when they're going to be there, places of employment and even cell phone numbers. These are all things Wilson says can make these teens a target for predators. She says, "They're in their room, giving out this information and they think they're really talking to those really cool people who want to get to know them but that information opens doors to uncool people and that and predators that thake their personal information and use it against them."
There are 10,000 computers throughout the Lubbock ISD school district. But you won't be able to log onto My-Space or Xanga on any school computer. "Safety of our children is the number one priority," says Lubbock I.S.D. Executive Director of Information Systems, Terry Driscoll. He says the school is blocking any website that could harm children. "We've got a committee that will review websites and help us determine what we block and won't block."
A new program is helping Driscoll monitor any and all internet activity. He says, "You can see on this particular day, attempts to access Xanga were blocked." NewsChannel 11 was the one to inform Driscoll about Tagworld. He says, "You can see that Tagworld has been accessed at both addresses just today 92 times so we've got some access on that website we were not aware of and this is a great example of how we become aware of that." Both Lubbock Cooper and Frenship I.S.D. have similar blocking tools.
While your children may be safe at school, it's what goes on at home that worries Wilson. The concern is when they leave campuses, what goes on behind closed doors, parents need to knock on that door and leave it open." Since our interview Lubbock I-S-D has decided to block Tagworld as well.
NewsChannel 11 e-mailed My Space, Xanga and Tagworld. So far, My Space is the only site to respond. They assure us, when notified a user under the age of 14 may be using the site, they investigate it and delete the profile. They're also teaming with a parent education website called Wire Safety. Next week, we'll explore that website and find out what parents can do to educate themselves on keeping their children safe.
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