Like many of today?s 12-year-old girls, my daughter can type up a storm ?chatting? with her little friends online. As a matter of fact, Kristin seems to type just as quickly as she talks ? a mile a minute.
It?s a good thing she?s fast, because I allow her to cyber-chat only a few minutes a day. Sometimes Kristin?s instant written conversations with her friends (although brief) are so much like ?real? conversations that she laughs out loud, or talks while she?s typing, as if her friend is right there in the room. I marvel at the technology and the incredible benefits it offers her generation.
But I?m also keenly aware of the dangers of both surfing the Net and allowing kids to chat online. Our computers are safely located in an open room so they can be easily monitored. It?s a very bad idea to put TVs or computers in kids? bedrooms ? you never know who or what they might come across or how much time they might spend blankly staring at the screen.
Kristin falls into the all-too-vulnerable middle-school-age group of kids who spend large amounts of time on the Net for both entertainment and social interaction. I?ve written many times about the risks associated with ?random? Internet surfing ? stats reveal, for example, that children as young as five are now regularly being exposed to porn online. It?s a devastating problem that destroys the innocence of our children and threatens their emotional, moral, social and spiritual development.
Of course, the problem can easily be avoided by installing an Internet filter (we use American Family Association?s). But even computers with filters pose huge risks when kids are allowed to enter online chat rooms. Many parents mistakenly think that their kids are safe, simply ?talking? with friends, when in fact, perverted strangers may actually be stalking them.
Thankfully, this is a threat of which I am well aware through my involvement with a great non-profit organization called Web Wise Kids (www.webwisekids.com) that teaches parents and children how to protect themselves from online predators. But some parents are still naive about exactly who might be having intimate conversations with their young daughters and sons on the other side of the computer screen. Here are a few alarming facts every parent should know (all of which can be found and referenced on webwisekids.com).