RENO — Many of today’s children and teens are totally immersed with texting, Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and other social networking sites. While social networking may appear harmless to many of these young people, it can open to the door to child predators and other dangers such as cyber-bullying.
As part of efforts to keep kids safe on the Internet, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office supports National Internet Safety Month during June. Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley encourages parents to educate themselves about the potential dangers of social networking and to make sure that they are aware of what their children are doing online.
A Pew Research Center and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children survey of 10- to 17-year-olds showed that 34 percent of them had posted their real names, telephone numbers, home addresses or the names of their schools online for anyone to see. Forty-five percent had posted their dates of birth or ages, and 18 percent posted pictures of themselves.
“Allowing kids to go online without supervision or ground rules is like allowing them to explore a major metropolitan area by themselves,” Washoe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Armando Avina said. “The Internet, like a city, offers entertainment and educational resources, but also presents the risk of coming across websites containing adult or violent images, false information or worse, coming into contact with sexual predators. Kids need help navigating this world. Parents need to be aware of what their child is doing and talk openly with them about Internet safety.”
Internet safety tips for children and adults:
• Keep social networking site profiles set to “private.”
• Do not give out personal details such as address or school information.
• Do not send anyone inappropriate photos of yourself or anyone else.
• Keep anti-virus definitions updated and never give out your password information.
Safety tips for parents:
• Discuss the dangers of the Internet with your child and set ground rules to follow.
• Review safety/parental controls on your computer, search engine, email and instant messaging.
• Monitor your child’s online activity and the sites they visit.
• Keep the computer or laptop in a common area, not in your child’s bedroom.
The sheriff’s office reminds people that children are not the only possible victims from Internet-related crimes. Adults also fall prey to the dangers on the Internet. People must remain vigilant and remember safety tips.
For more information, visit www.netsmartz.org.
Sheriff Mike Haley encourages the public to report any incident of online child exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Cybertipline at www.cybertipline.com. If the incident involves an immediate threat to life, please call 911.