Jenna Maggert English 213 Social Networking 3-27-08 Take Responsibility to Protect Your Children Changing an identity to become someone more appealing has become an issue in the internet world. Brad Paisley's hit song "Online" is a prime example. The main man, five-foot- three and overweight, became six-foot-five and damn good looking in a matter of a few words, false pictures, and a website called "MySpace." His song was meant to be harmless with humor, but in all honesty, the dangers of online predators are far more severe. The same process of Paisley changing an identity is the same process in which online predators take in order to find the right victim in which they can reel in to believing they are someone completely different. To the predators, it's all just a game that has no end, until they're caught. But to their victims, which end up being mostly children and teens, it's so much more than a game; it's their lives and safety. Unfortunately, the game is still being played. There are two main networks that parents and children should know about when it comes to online predating. In an article on MSNBC.COM, Pete Williams talks about MySpace and Facebook being famous for attracting online predators. Being the most common network of the two for the younger and older crowds, MySpace is a hit. With among 40 million members, one being Olivia Walker, say MySpace is best for “instant messaging or learning something more about somebody they didn't know previously” (Williams). But the mysterious thing about these networks is how do they know if this is a real profile or even a real person? “MySpace declined an on-camera interview but warns users never to post any personally identifiable information and says it's determined to provide a safe place for young people.” It may have started out safe in the beginning but the safety is definitely declining. If MySpace is trying so hard to provide such safety for these users like they are “determined“ they will do, then why are the statistics of online predators using this network skyrocketing? Although the exact number of online predators using MySpace is unknown, the number of websites protecting children and warning them not to use MySpace is also skyrocketing. Facebook, on the other hand, is definitely putting in the effort to protect users. Facebook is a network that attracts more of the college students and is used for meeting other students at their university or rekindling old high school friendships that may have died through the years. “Facebook says it blocks access to outside users not connected to a specific school. We protect the viewing of the profile to only students or other people with valid e-mail addresses from those universities, says Facebook's Chris Daly” (Williams). As you can see, MySpace and Facebook are popular networks and the protection they carry for your children and teens vary. Facebook, as stated, is definitely taking the extra step to provide a higher level of safety than MySpace, where anyone can join. As a parent you must be aware of the networks that your children and teens might partake in. Whether you think you know their every move on the net, being updated with new information and the hotspots of online predators is the key to providing your child with safety. Online predators work the internet with the intention of getting what they want, which most of the time is a sexual deed. Through the website Web Aware, they say the best way for online predators to succeed is by “establishing contact with kids through conversations in chat rooms, instant messaging, or e-mail. Many teens use "peer support" online forums to deal with their problems. Predators go to these online areas to look for vulnerable victims” (Be Web Aware). Your child, if uneducated, could be this vulnerable victim. Statistics say it all. “ Federal authorities believe that at least 500,000 to 750,000 predators are “on-line” on a daily basis, constantly combing through these blog sites…“ (Wagner). Online predators often research their victims profiles, blogs, or through conversation starters and find common interests and will use this to their advantage. The predators also give children what any child loves, attention. They will use “affection, kindness, and time” to reel a child in. After they know they’ve got the child hooked, this is where their so-called “fun” begins. Predators all work at different speeds on reeling in their victims, but some will “engage in sexually explicit conversations immediately. This more direct approach may include harassment or stalking. Predators may also evaluate the kids they meet online for future face-to-face contact” (Be Web Aware). No matter the pace they work at, if a child is not up-to-date on online predator information, that child could have just put themselves in a dangerous situation. It is your duty as a parent to inform your children on how online predators work and the actions predators might take to target your child. As a parent, if you are letting your child use the internet, your first thing before letting them log on should be making sure they are safe. There are many websites, news updates, and books available out there for you that show you and help you understand the steps to take in order to ensure your child is safe. The number one step stated by Microsoft Security is “talking to your kids about sexual predators and potential online dangers” (Online Predators). Relating back to MySpace, Microsoft also says “The recommended age for signing up for social networking sites like Windows Live Spaces or MySpace is usually 13 and over. If your children are under the recommended age for these sites, do not let them use the sites” (Online Predators). If your child is old enough to understand how to use these networks, they should be old enough to understand the dangers of online predators. However, putting restrictions on your computer such as parental controls and security systems, will help your child understand that you are not allowing them on those websites and will then make you more comfortable as a parent while your child is surfing the net. How much you want your child to be safe is how much effort and time you will put in educating yourself and your child about the dangers that are lingering on the web. Protection from law enforcement and public safety also helps ensure children will be safe while using the net. The Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force is a partnership that is making a difference. A few years ago, the ICAC received money to help make a positive change in the safety of children over the net. “As a result a number of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies across Iowa have been working together to conduct both reactive and proactive investigations of sexual exploitation of children over the internet” (Iowa Internet Crimes). Not only is Iowa taking action to protect your children but South Dakota, specifically Sioux Falls officials, are cracking down on online predators. With the report coming out on March 5, 2008, officials “in less than a month, they've arrested two men for soliciting sex with teenagers. News of the arrests may concern parents, but it isn't surprising for law enforcement” (Neisteadt). These officials decided to take the action of playing the part of a vulnerable teenage girl. “Our goal is to try to get the predator off the street before they can actually meet a child” (Neisteadt). Through this intense study, predators varied. Some more reactive than others. With the success of this profile and supposedly “real” girl, came “the arrest of 22-year-old Joshua Zimmerman of Renner. According to police, Zimmerman asked an undercover officer for a meeting to have sex” (Neisteadt). Although law enforcement and public safety are taking a positive step in protecting children and teens online, as a parent, it’s your responsibility to continue the education and protection. Sr. Commander Light from the South Dakota area says, “for parents, be aware of just how many dangers your children face on the World Wide Web” (Neisteadt). As a child logs on to the internet with the intention of catching up with some friends or meeting some new ones, they may have no idea that their “best friend” may become their worst enemy. Through education, experience, and awareness, a child’s safety can only be enhanced. It is not only the child’s responsibility but also a huge part in the parent’s responsibility to make sure that your child is aware of all of the possible predators and dangers that are on the web. There are products for computers that can block websites to positively increase the safety of a child. Always being updated on new information and tips is only going to better the safety of your child and will make you more comfortable about your child using the net; so be a responsible parent and take action in protecting your child from online predators and internet dangers. Works Cited Be Web Aware. 2007. Media Awareness Network. 24 Mar. 2008 <http://www.bewebaware.ca/english/OnlinePredators.aspx>. Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force A Partnership Making A Difference. 24 Oct. 2005. Iowa Department of Public Safety. 24 Mar. 2008 <http://www.dops.state.ia.us/commis/pib/Releases/2005/10-24- 1005_ICAC_release.htm>. Neisteadt, Shawn. Keloland.com-Caught In The Web. 5 Mar. 2008. Keloland TV. 24 Mar. 2008 <http://www.keloland.com/NewsDetail/6162.cfm?ID=0,67152>. Online Predators-Child Safety-Microsoft Security. 15 Jan. 2007. Microsoft. 24 Mar. 2008 <http://www.microsoft.com/protect/family/guidelines/predators.mspx>. Wagner, Jan. Dateline-To Catch An Internet Predator. Feb. 2006. Yellow Dyno. 24 Mar. 2008 <http://www.yellodyno.com/memos/monthly_memo_2_06.html>. Williams, Pete. MySpace, Facebook attract online predators. 3 Feb. 2006. MSNBC. 24 Mar. 2008 <http://www.msnbc.com/id/11165576/>.
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