I read the article about Internet use by Juneau teens (Empire, Nov. 6). In the first sentence the word "fad" is used, however, I'm not sure chatting and blogging on the Internet is a "fad." The new generation is comfortable with this form of communication. Teens are no longer talking on the phone, writing notes or hanging out in front of the local hot-spot to find out what is happening.
I am happy to see concerned parents come together to increase community awareness of the need to protect our youth while they explore and communicate on the Internet. I feel the best way to combat the problem of unsafe Internet behavior is through education.
Putting blocks and filters on computers will help. Teaching our children Internet safety rules and the reasons behind them will give them tools to be safe whenever they communicate online.
In 2000, the Crimes Against Children Research Center conducted a report based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,501 youth, ages 10-17 that use the Internet regularly. The results included the following: Approximately one in five received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet in the last year. One in 17 was threatened or harassed. Only 17 percent of youth and 10 percent of parents could name a specific authority, such as the FBI Cybertipline, to which they could report inappropriate/criminal Internet activity.
To teach youth how to be safe, adults need to understand the safety risks, be able to set rules and know where to go for help if a problem arises. There are several great Web sites that offer help in educating both adults and children on using the Internet safely.
Right now teens use computers, cellular phones, personal digital assistants and video game consoles to communicate with others online; who knows what will be possible in the next few years? Just as scammers, exploiters, predators and bullies are in the physical world, they also exist in the cyber world. By knowing the risks and how to prevent online abuse, our children will be able to safely explore the Internet.
I know the adults in our community care about our youth. Please take the time to educate yourselves and educate our children on the safe use of the Internet. It is their new world.