Cyber world's threats to kids topic of talk

U.S. attorney promotes Internet safety to parents

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

Teens (ages 12-17) and the cyber world

95% of teens are online.

97% of online teens play computer, Web, portable or console games; 27% of them game with people they meet online.

28% of teens have a blog, where they are liable to share personal information.

58% of 12-year-olds have a cellphone.

About one-third of online teens have been cyberbullied.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

Safety tips for kids with cellphones

Establish rules for when they are allowed to use their cellphone, what websites they can visit and what apps they can download.

Review cellphone records for any unknown numbers and late-night phone calls and texts.

Remind your children that anything they send from their phones can be easily forwarded and shared.

Teach your child never to reveal cellphone numbers or passwords online.

Talk to your child about the possible consequences of sending sexually explicit or provocative images or text messages.

When shopping for a cellphone for your child, research available security settings.

On the Web

Find tips and more provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: NetSmartz411

This site encourages responsible digital citizenship.

Here's every parents' nightmare: a sex offender posing online as a 14-year-old girl convinces two teenage boys to send "her" nude photos of their private parts. That real Washington case is the kind that U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan sees too often and would like to prevent from recurring.

"A digital photo can live forever and can go anywhere," said Durkan, who has been reaching out to kids and parents throughout Western Washington to educate them to be cyber smart and safe.

Thursday night, Durkan and local law enforcement officers from Vancouver Police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security spoke about cyber safety for kids to a group of parents, students and educators gathered at Educational Service District 112. Some of the agencies work together as members of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

"We're trying to make sure kids and parents know the dangers. We'd rather educate than prosecute," said Durkan, who chairs the Department of Justice Committee on Cybercrime and has offices in Seattle and Tacoma.

Victoria Schwarz, whose daughter is in eighth grade at Discovery Middle School, said she'd heard about the presentation just an hour before it started and rescheduled her night so she could attend. Her daughter has attended private school until this year.

"My daughter's having to do Internet research. You click the wrong thing and you get something else," Schwarz said, adding that she's heard about passwords and Internet locks. "I don't know how to use them. I jumped at this opportunity."

A recent study found that 40 percent of teens spend one to three hours daily online, while 13 percent spend more than five hours daily online. Through cellphones, surfing the Internet, online gaming, social media, emails, blogs and more, kids are immersed in the online world, putting themselves in danger of cyberbullying, online predators and identity theft.

Detective Pat Kennedy of the Vancouver Police Department and a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, cited a June 2012 study stating that 70 percent of teens hide their online behavior from their parents.

Durkan said some parents overreact and think they have to keep their kids offline completely, and not allow their kids to have a cellphone.

"The reality is that kids and adults will continue to spend time online," Durkan said. "We need to look at how kids interact online and how to keep them safe."

She said that when kids make a Facebook post, it's seen by hundreds of people, many of them strangers and sometimes bullies or sexual predators.

"Our kids are so much more tech-savvy than their parents," Durkan said. "But they have the sense of being invincible. That nothing bad can happen to them."

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com