It’s impossible to stress internet safety for kids too much. The internet is just a window into the most interesting places, stories, images and news ever invented. I’m sure the engineers who constructed it decades ago for the military are amazed at the civilian applications…like social media.
Sadly, the internet has also become an important tool for child predators who target children and pornography producers who don’t care who they hurt. It’s way past time to stop them in their tracks.
The Rochester Institute of Technology reported in 2008 that 48% of kids in kindergarten and first grade interact with with people on web sites. Again 48% of those kids reported viewing online content that made them feel uncomfortable, but only 72% reported it to a grownup.
So, what happened to the other roughly one in four children who did not report it? Maybe that was the start of the downhill slide into the world of porn and victimization?
Of course, social sites like Facebook and MySpace encourage sharing and interaction. Are the social sites the problem? Before you get too worried, try to remember that adult content and predators seeking victims have been around a lot longer than any social media site.
My first encounter with a sexual predator was 50 years ago in my local movie theater. A guy sat right behind me in an almost empty theater, leaned forward and started breathing on my neck and talking to me. I moved seats three times and so did he as he continued his unwanted advances toward me.
Finally, I excused myself to go get popcorn and ran out the front door as if the devil himself was chasing me. Which, in hindsight, maybe he was.
The movie theater was a physical social site then. The corner candy store, the drug store and the playground were also social sites in the past.
The factors that kept me on the right path then are the same that would do it today. I was properly boxed in by a healthy, wholesome family life, the teachings of the church (right and wrong) and a group of neighbors and relatives who relentlessly watched out for bad things in the neighborhood. It certainly didn’t hurt that the local beat cops knew the residents and most of the kids by name!
So, social sites may be part of the problem, but they have simply replaced the movie theater or the playground as hunting grounds for predators. The hard part today is putting the positive forces in place like a real neighborhood and friendly, knowledgeable police officers on foot who could call a kid by name!
Of course the other difference is that, with the internet, the bad guys can get right into your home – without you even knowing it.