Many Teen Girls Bare All and Share Photos

Eleven percent of girls 13 to 16 years old have sent nude or semi-nude images of themselves over the Internet to someone they have never met in person, according to Kelly Middle School Resource Officer Chris Conley.

It’s one of the sobering statistics associated with children and the Internet and the reason Conley said parents need to be involved.

A dozen parents attended an informational meeting Thursday presented by Conley and fellow resource Officer Kevin Creamer.

“We want you to start a dialogue with your children about the Internet,” Conley said. “If it’s sent over the Internet, it’s not private.”

From e-mails and instant messages to blogs and My Space pages, the amount of information about students available to anyone looking is alarming, Creamer said.

In addition, students are using their own language to communicate — POS is shorthand for “parent over shoulder” and LMIRL translates as “let’s meet in real life.” Police said there are numerous examples of predators who know the language taking advantage of children.

Shirley Hodkinson, mother of an eighth-grader, said the Internet and its potential dangers are something every parents needs to know. It’s the reason the new parent advisory committee, Cougar PAC, and school officials invited the officers to talk at the forum.

Hodkinson and fellow parent Jen Shea said they are trying to invigorate the organization to get more parents involved. Parent apathy has been a problem in recent years, she said. Thursday’s forum was held the same night as a dance to encourage participation.

“We’re trying different things,” Hodkinson said. “We need to find ways to bring parents in. These kids know more about the Internet than we do. This type of information is important to everybody.”

Shea said many parents believe that once their children hit middle school, “it’s hands off.”

“They need us the most right now,” Shea said.

Kelly School Principal Michael Cain, who said Internet safety is part of the curriculum, said he plans to schedule a series of forums throughout the school year to bring in people with expertise to address parents.

Monitor your child’s Internet use consistently.

If your child belongs to a social networking site (MySpace, Facebook, Tagged, Xanga, etc.), look closely at what information they have posted in their member profiles and blogs, including photos and videos. Predators, bullying, profanity and threats often occur in these types of sites.

Find out what other Web sites your child’s social networking site is linked to.

Explain that your children should: Never give out personal information (name, address, phone, school name); never meet anyone from online without your permission; never open e-mails from unknown senders; never share their photo with strangers over the Internet.

Encourage your children to bring anything strange or upsetting to your attention and don’t overreact when they do.

Stay in touch with your child’s online activities. Know who their online friends are (and who is on their buddy list), just as you would their other friends.

Learn how filtering and monitoring software can assist you in protecting your children.

Internet accounts should always be in the parent’s name. Children should never share their passwords with anyone other than their parents.

Notify the police if someone your child met online starts calling them, sending gifts or trying to lure them from home

Don’t think of the Internet as a baby sitter. Children on the Internet need adult supervision. Keep the computer in a public area of the house.

Copyright NORBL - Norwich Bulletin
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