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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Online Safety For Students and Parents

WHOA Press Release #2008-10

For Immediate Release

WHOA-KIDS/TEENS DIVISION EMPHASIZES ONLINE SAFETY FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR

Around this time every year children of all ages are returning to schools, colleges and universities. Fall is a reminder to all of us that our kids and teens will spend less time outside riding their bikes and playing basketball in the sunshine and more time inside watching television and surfing the Internet.

The concept of “back to school safety” used to mean that our children need to wear a seat belt in the family vehicle or, if available, on a school bus, paying attention to adult crossing guards and remembering to look both ways before crossing a street. It also meant when they were home alone they should keep the doors locked and when they were in public they should not talk to strangers. Now strangers can sneak inside your home via the Internet while you are at work and your children are home from school. Jayne Hitchcock, president of Working to Halt Online Abuse (WHOA) and Working to Halt Online Abuse-Kids/Teens Division (WHOA-KTD), says “today back to school safety has to include ways to keep children protected from online bullies and predators. This means not letting a stranger lurk inside your child’s computer. Being online can be a fun and worthwhile experience for kids and teens, provided they understand how to stay safer.”

WHOA-KTD was founded in 2005 in response to a rapidly expanding need for organized online safety groups that would specifically focus on the needs of children and teens who are victimized and taken advantage of every day on the Internet. WHOA-KTD is a subsidiary division of WHOA, which is the oldest and largest all-volunteer online safety organization. WHOA has been helping adult victims of cyberstalking since 1997 and remains the only online organization to provide the most up-to-date cyberstalking statistics and cumulative trends.

WHOA-KTD’s statistics from 2007 show that 28% of students have been cyber bullied and of 395 students canvassed, 54 admitted to being an online bully towards somebody else. A significant finding is that almost half said they had been contacted by a stranger via an instant messaging program, email or at an online gaming or social networking site (such as Myspace and Facebook). Approximately half of these children did share the experience with their parents or another adult, which is what WHOA-KTD encourages them to do. What is most frightening is this means that parents and guardians of about half of the children were unaware that their child had been approached by a stranger online.

The 2007 110th Congress 1st Session – Senate 205 found that:

35,000,000 children in kindergarten through grade 12 have Internet access;
41% of students in grades 5 through 12 do not share with parents what they do online;
31% of students are skilled enough to circumvent Internet filter software;
20% of middle and/or high school students admit to meeting offline with someone met online;

WHOA-KTD advises all parents and guardians to take a proactive role in their child’s Internet activities by doing some fairly simple things (from the book Net Crimes & Misdemeanors by J.A. Hitchcock):


1. Get actively involved in your children’s online life. Know what they are doing online. If your child has created a personal Web site, what information is posted on it? How about an online journal, blog or profile on a social networking site such as Myspace or Facebook?
2. Place the computer in a den, family room, kitchen, or other high-traffic location. Don’t allow your child to keep a computer with an Internet connection in the bedroom where the door can be closed while online. If they close the door whenever they go online, regard it as a danger sign.
3. Use a filtering/screening program such as Cyberpatrol, NetNanny, SafeBrowse, or Kidsnet.
4. Set use of the computer to specific times so that your child does not spend an excessive amount of time online.
5. Monitor how frequently your child gets unfamiliar e-mail­and read it.
6. Become more computer literate. The best way to do this is to sit down with your child and ask them to show you how the Internet works. You may be surprised to find how much they enjoy the role of teacher.
7. Sit and work alongside your child while they are online.
8. Warn your children to be cautious with online strangers.
9. Monitor your long-distance phone bill for evidence that your child has been in contact with a stranger.
10. If your child receives strange phone calls or gifts from strangers, find out what’s going on.
11. If your child turns off the monitor or computer when you approach, regard it as a warning sign.
12. Know what your children are looking at on the computer. If you find that it’s pornography, it’s time for a chat. If you check the Web browser cache and find it’s already been cleaned out or that it’s empty, it’s time for a chat. If you check the Recycle Bin to see if the cache info is there and it’s not, it’s time to disconnect the computer from the Internet and have a serious chat.

Jayne A. Hitchcock is a cyber crime expert who trains law enforcement from the local to federal level, and assists the US Department of Justice Office (USDJO) for Victims of Crime and National Center for Victims of Crime. She trains advocate groups, conducts seminars, raises awareness of cyber crime and harassment and lectures educators, librarians, parents and students at middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities about the dangers of bullies, predators, stalkers and online social networking sites. She has appeared as an expert in various media, including America’s Most Wanted, PEOPLE magazine, Primetime Thursday with Diane Sawyer, TIME magazine, the Associated Press, The Montel Williams Show, A&E’s Investigative Reports, 48 Hours, Ladies Home Journal, Campus Security Reports, Inside Edition, Good Morning America and CNN. Her latest book, Net Crimes & Misdemeanors 2nd edition (netcrimes.net), highlights online crimes, how to be safer online and what to do if you are victimized. Video Professor recently released a 3-CD tutorial based on the book.

To interview Hitchcock, please contact her via email whoa@haltabuse.org. WHOA statistics may be quoted in media and on web sites with appropriate recognition. If someone you know needs help, or if you want to learn more about WHOA or WHOA-KTD visit www.haltabuse.org.

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