Warning To Parents: As Of July, MySpace Hosting 29,000 Websites For Known Sex Offenders
With school back in session, thousands of kids will be surfing the Internet to conduct research, complete homework assignments, and connect with their new schoolmates.
While chatting online with their friends about the latest school gossip or teenage crush seems innocent enough, the fact of the matter is that the Internet can expose a child to inappropriate material and unscrupulous individuals who are looking for any opportunity to exploit innocent children.
The Statistics of Online Abuse Towards Children Are Alarming
According to a survey conducted by NetAlert, nearly one child in every five has been approached online by a stranger, and forty-five percent (45%) have been exposed to material that is pornographic, sexually explicit, violent, racist, or that encourages them to participate in dangerous or illegal activities.
One of the Biggest Threats To Children are Social Networking Sites Like MySpace.com
A few months ago, North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper reported that over 29,000 registered sex offenders are using MySpace.com to look for underage victims based on the web site’s own estimates. That number was four times greater than the company’s previous reports. Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal estimated in May that at least 5,000 sex offenders were registered for MySpace using false identities. Blumenthal and Cooper have been the most active attorney generals in linking MySpace and sexual predation.
Horrifying True Stories Prove This is Not an Urban Legend
What’s even more alarming are the true-life horror stories of missing or victimized kids who met their predator online.
In New Jersey, Majalie Cajuste is grieving the murder of her 14-year old daughter Judy who met a man in his 20s through MySpace.com.
In California, friends are mourning 15-year-old Kayla Reed who was active on MySpace until the day she was found murdered.
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported more than 2,600 incidents last year of adults attempting to entice children. That’s why North Carolina’s Attorney General is proposing stronger legislation to ban registered sex offenders from using social networking sites and strengthening other anti-child pornography and criminal penalties for Internet solicitation of minors and children for sex.
Last year, North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation arrested a police officer for the alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl he lured using MySpace, Cooper’s office said.
But MySpace Isn’t The Only Threat
According to Highlights of the Youth Internet Safety Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, one in five children received unwanted sexual solicitations online. There are a growing number of pedophiles using the Internet to gain a child’s confidence and arrange face-to-face meetings.
These cyber criminals trap children by using spam e-mails, online messaging, children’s chat rooms, and misleading domain names. If your child is using the Internet, you must take measures to educate and protect them from these dangers.
As part of our back-to-school newsletter edition, I’ve outlined 3 things you should be doing now to keep your kids safe online.
Three Things You Can Do Right Now To Help Protect Your Children Online
1. Install web and e-mail filtering software to prevent your children from viewing inappropriate material. We recommend using http://www.bsafeonline.com/. Not only will this prevent your children from visiting inappropriate web sites, but it will also stop inappropriate spam.
2. Talk to your kids about online safety and proper Internet usage. Set limits and guidelines about when they can go online, what they can do, and how long they are allowed to be online. Explain why it is dangerous for them to “chat” with strangers online or download suspicious looking files.
3. Give your children specific online guidelines or rules to follow when using the Internet. It’s not enough to warn them about potential risks; pedophiles know how to cloak their identity and gain a child’s confidence to arrange face-to-face meetings
Require Your Kids To Know And Follow These Simple Online Rules
I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents’ work addresses, or our e-mail address to anyone online.
I will tell my parents right away if I see a web site, e-mail, or message that makes me feel uncomfortable.
I will never send my picture to anyone online or upload my picture to any web site without my parent’s knowledge and permission.
I will never agree to meet someone face-to-face whom I met online without my parents’ knowledge and permission.
I will not respond to any messages that are mean or that make me feel uncomfortable in any way. If I get a message like that, I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.
I will never give my parents’ financial information to anyone, especially their credit card information, bank account information, or social security number.
If you want more information on how to keep your children safe online or to report illegal, violent, or explicit acts towards children, go to http://www.cybertipline.com/
This site is run by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and is a great resource for parents, teachers, and guardians.