Helping Parents Protect Teens From Online Predators
On Wednesday, MySpace.com, a popular social networking web site, announced new restrictions for adults trying to contact teens online. The announcement comes amid concerns about the danger of teens meeting internet predators online, and in person.
Many parents say they feel helpless when it comes to protecting their children from Internet predators, because they realize they don't know as much as their kids do about how the Internet works.
The stories make parents shudder. Internet predators caught red-handed are shown on Dateline NBC. And then there is the 16-year-old who ended up in the middle east last week, to meet a man she met on MySpace. And finally, the Travis County 14-year-old who says she was raped, by a man she met on MySpace. A lawsuit in that case was filed Tuesday.
Wednesday, MySpace announced adults can no longer contact teens without already knowing their email address or full name. But what about adults who lie about their age?
"If we can put a man on the moon, we can figure out a way that these websites can figure out the ages of these kids and verify it," said John Walsh, host of America's Most Wanted.
A new survey finds almost two thirds of teens post pictures and personal information on sites like MySpace. And 14 percent have met face-to-face with someone they met online.
MySpace, Facebook, Xanga, IM'ing, Chat rooms... many parents just don't know the lingo. They want to protect their kids... But don't know where to start.
"It seems kids are born tech savvy now," said Jacalyn Leavitt, of ikeepsafe.org. "And parents are the computer immigrants."
Symantec and ikeepsafe.org unveiled a new parent tutorial that explains step-by-step how to secure your home computer. It also explains how to talk to your kids about Internet safety.
Safety advocates urge parents not to over-react if your child receives an inappropriate contact online. Talk to them up front about how to handle it, but don't automatically take away access. That may motivate them to find another way to use the Internet, outside the home.