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Protecting Our Children in Digital Age

Protecting our children from cyber-predators requires engaging with our youngsters (Photo courtesy of shine.yahoo.com).

Securing the Future: Protecting Our Children

By Meta J. Mereday

     Among the many teachings that we heard growing up, the one that stands out the most is “Don’t talk to strangers.”

     Unfortunately, the onset of the cyber revolution and the increasing online presence has also increased the access that strangers have to our most vulnerable population - our children.  In addition to protecting our children from environmental toxins and poor food choices, we have to be more vigilant regarding the company they keep at school and online. 

     According to Daniel Armagh in his article entitled, “A Safety Net for the Internet: Protecting Our Children,” he makes it clear how serious the problem is.  

     “It is every parent’s nightmare. You turn on your home computer and are shocked to see disturbing images of children being physically abused, sexually molested, tortured, and even murdered. You investigate further and discover a sexually explicit and obscene e-mail from a cyber predator intended for your  preteen son or daughter. You race up the stairs to your child's bedroom to discuss what you have discovered, only to find the receipt for a plane ticket to a destination across the country on the dresser and clothes missing from the closet. Such nightmares are becoming a reality for a small but increasing number of parents as more families go online.”

     What can be done to protect our children and to secure their future?

     Experts agree that it begins at home with the parents, surrogates or guardians – in whatever format the family unit is comprised.

     However, the historical view that “it takes a village to raise a child” also holds sway in the war against Internet predators and in the interest of protecting our children. 

     Organizations such as the American Humane Association (AHA) have initiated programs that foster this premise.

     According to the AHA, “Child welfare professionals are working at full capacity to protect our nation’s children. But, it is clear that the problem is too great and too important to be delegated entirely to these valiant workers. American Humane Association believes that everyone should become more aware of and involved in helping protect children and support families to prevent abuse and neglect before it occurs.”

      In response, the AHA has launched a community-based, prevention initiative called Front Porch Project focused on the premise that everyone who has an interest in the well-being and safety of children within that community should be taught and encouraged to make a positive difference.                 

     Combining community outreach and prevention services broadens the safety net that is needed to protect our children not only from online predators, but also from incidents in neighborhoods that seem “safe,” but harbor pedophiles, predators and abusers.

     Taking on the “if you see something, say something” stance, more people are becoming aware and vocal regarding child welfare issues.

     Knowing the signs and understanding the lingo can help to save a life.  Track the computer usage of your child. If possible, have the computer in a central location so that you can monitor their activity. 

     Encourage outside interests for your child that cut down on their computer time and be involved with them.

     Know who your children’s friends are and their parents, especially if your children are going to be in their home.

     Maintain an open line of communication with your children so that they know they can come to you in case they are approached by a potential predator and report it immediately.

     Communication is the key along with an educated parent and a community committed to protecting our children.

 

 

This article was published on Friday 31 August, 2012.
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