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Tech Bytes - The Newest Form of “Stranger Danger”

By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, May 3rd, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

The Newest Form of

“Stranger Danger”

Last week in the news there was a headline of a Texas man, Steve Correa-Franca, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for enticing a 9-year-old girl from Minnesota to send him nude photographs through email. The man, who was the age of 33, was posing as a 16-year-old. Upon further investigation the man’s laptop was discovered to have contained more than 200 images of child porn.

The fact that 200 images were found is, to say the very least, a disturbing thought as these photos are 200 images too many. How did this story hit so close to home here in Minnesota as there was 1,146 miles between Correa-Franca and his Minnesota victim? The answer… the world-wide-web.

Parents today have even more of a challenge protecting their children than parents of the previous generations. The world is now a different place because it is virtually at the fingertips of anyone with a computer, smartphone, or tablet device. Teaching children the proper use of the internet and monitoring are necessities.

Monitoring children on the internet is a day-to-day task requiring a lot of attention. From posting personal information online to even pictures, there is a lot of room for error, which in turn will make children easy targets. Good Housekeeping reports that 34 percent of children from ages 11 to 12 have a social media account. That’s a pretty large number, and the figure doesn’t drop off for kids under 11.

So, as a parent, what can you do to protect your children? The number one answer to this question: educate. Banning them from the computer is not going to solve any problem. As the cliché states, ‘you’re just kicking the can down the road.’ Teach your kids to utilize privacy settings, never to friend or communicate with strangers, and train them to be wise about the content they view and post.

It is also the responsibility of the parent to directly monitor computer usage to guarantee safety. But in reality adults cannot be hovering on top of their children all the time, right? Some parents find some benefit in purchasing internet monitoring software. Some of the most highly-rated, popular programs include McAfee Safe Eyes or WebWatcher, both range from $70 to $100. These programs can control content, time, usage logs, and issue alerts.

In today’s society what is known as stranger danger takes a new form through the virtual world. Online dangers pose more of a risk than the odds of a mysterious van perusing through a neighborhood luring children in with candy. Internet safety is a serious concept, especially for children. NBC’s The More You Know promos sum up the lesson here, the more you know about internet security, the better off you are.

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