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Some Internet Lessons Are Best Unlearned
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- The Internet offers millions of educational opportunities, but parents need to monitor its use to protect young minds from inappropriate sites and from people who would victimize children.
Dr. Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said a relatively new opportunity for child abuse is entering households in the form of the Internet. Davis encouraged parents and children to enjoy all the learning and entertainment benefits of the Internet, but remember the risk of any unsupervised activity.
"Before allowing children online, discuss some safety issues with them. Don't just give them rules. Explain the reasons for them," Davis said. "Keep the computer in a busy part of the house so it is easier to monitor their activities without them feeling like they aren't trusted."
Here are some basic Internet rules:
- Never give your home address or other personal information over the Internet. Regardless of how friendly someone seems, they should still be considered strangers. People may provide false information in an attempt to get similar, but factual, information from others online.
- Encourage children to report inappropriate messages. Remember that overreacting could make them less likely to report such messages in the future.
- Find web sites and "bookmark" them for your child's enjoyment. Bookmarking child-friendly web sites will reduce the need for using Internet searches that may expose them to inappropriate sites.
- Spend time with children to discuss their Internet experiences. Give them a chance to show what they have discovered.
"The Internet can be a great tool to trigger discussion on a number of topics," Davis said. "Make them feel comfortable talking to you about what they see at web sites and people they may encounter through e-mails or chatrooms."
In an effort to bring attention to all forms of child abuse, April has been named National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The Mississippi Homemaker Volunteers are preparing to launch their fourth annual blue ribbon campaign in April to draw attention to the problem of child abuse. Coordinated by the Extension Service, MHV members will distribute blue ribbons to wear on clothing lapels and to tie around car antennas as a symbol of a commitment to stop child abuse in Mississippi.
Other agencies supporting the Blue Ribbon Campaign include the Mississippi Girl Scouts, Mississippi's Department of Human Services and Heart and Hand, Inc., a Jackson-based nonprofit organization.