Parents Can Learn to Keep Kids Safe in Cyber Space

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Parents and teachers warn children to be careful on the streets - to say "no" to drugs - but when it comes to the Internet, researchers are finding far too many young people turning into cyber-victims.

There is now a national program to help protect children that's starting here in Nevada.

The group is called "I-SAFE," and it's dedicated to educating young people, and their teachers and families, about how to use the Internet safely.

It's becoming more and more of a concern as Internet use - and abuse - grows.

"Why do our kids go on the internet? they're bored, they're lonely . . . "

I-SAFE instructors tell parents how to recognize and respond to Internet threats against their children.

"Sit down with your son or daughter, learn about the computer, find out what they're doing, who they're talking to," says instructor Travis Dellinger.

Recent surveys show 48 million children ages 5 to 17 surf the Internet regularly . . . of that, 1-in-5 has been offered sex online.

It usually starts in a chat room where innocent questions can quickly identify your child's interests - and ..even where they live.

"The kids give it up free and willingly," Dellinger says.

Beyond sexual predators, children can have their identities stolen, or get caught plagiarizing or downloading music.

"And parents should know their children can accidentally be exposed to inappropriate material when doing a keyword search," says Dellinger.

For example - we went to Google, one of the Internet's biggest search engines, and typed in a search for "cheerleader". The first two entries are fine, but just a couple clicks down was a porn site - and profanity also turn up.

Michelle Youngs\Washoe Co. Sheriff's Office]

"Predators live in our community, we have local cases to prove its happening and its a problem," says Deputy Michelle Youngs of the Washoe County Sheriff's Office.

Kirk Swanson is the father of two teens and he worries that Internet crimes are hitting home. "The worst fear would be somebody abducting somebody and taking them to a foreign country."

He says the I-SAFE resources help even non-computer savvy parents get up to speed in today's point and click world.

Not many parents attended tonight's workshop, but I-SAFE instructors say educational DVD's like this are now available at regional schools.

You can also go to the links page on this Web site where we have established a link to isafe.

By the year 2005, 77 million children will be online.