Friday, October 8, 2010

October is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month

October is National Cyber Safety Awareness Month and that means education for not only children, but parents as well. A national survey showed that only between 4 and 8 percent of adults could correctly identify chat acronyms.

Madison Meadows Middle School conducted a “Cyber Bullying” educational night for parents on Monday and will be hosting another meeting next week for the students. The presentation is part of the Arizona Attorney General office’s “Internet Safety Guide for Parents.”

First and foremost, parents must talk to children openly. Let them know about Internet dangers and that people aren’t always whom they say they are. Something that sounds innocent can turn into something dangerous.

Help children understand that anything posted online can never been undone. Even if a picture was posted and then deleted, someone could have printed it or shared it with someone prior to it being deleted. The Internet is not a place to post things that would normally be kept in a diary. Private thoughts and subjects should be kept in a private place, like a diary or within the family.

If your child wants to create a blog or join a social network, help them understand that blogs and social media are places to share thoughts and comments about particular topics in which they have interest. However, the child should never share any personal information such as real name, address, school, phone number, or family information. Even something as innocent as posting that the family is going on vacation can open up the fact that the house may be empty for a specific time period.

Parents can install software filtering out adult content, but often children know more about computers these days than do the parents and you risk the possibility of the child uninstalling or hacking the computer to get around these security features. Nothing can replace open communication between parents and children.

Some alarming facts that every parent should know were shared in the Meadows’ meeting and are posted in the Internet Safety Guide, also available online at

1 in 7 young people has received unwanted sexual solicitations online.

One third of these solicitations (31%) were aggressive and involved attempted, offline contact with youth.

In more than one quarter (27%) of incidents solicitors asked youth for sexual photographs of themselves.

1 in 3 young people has been exposed to sexually explicit materials online without seeking or expecting them.

1 in 11 young people has been threatened or harassed online.

The Arizona Attorney General’s office is available to present training on Internet Safety to any church, school, or community group. Contact the office at 602-542-2123 or 800-352-8431.

Please treat National Cyber Safety Awareness Month as time to educate yourself by researching online and to communicate with children about cyber safety.

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