Feature
News
6/5/2007
11:47 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%
Repost This

The MySpace Dilemma: Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

The anonymity and anything-goes nature of the Internet is a lure for sexual predators. We need to reconcile this with our children's growing passion for online social networking.

The rise of online networking has created social and educational opportunities, but that's not all. It has also created significant risk. The Internet may be the information superhighway, but it has also become a conduit for sexual exploitation of children and teens.

"The Internet has expanded our lives incredibly, but it has also expanded our kids' availability to predators and lowered the barriers between fantasy and behavior," said Judy Westberg-Warren, president of Web Wise Kids, an organization founded to educate youth about responsible Internet behavior.

According to a recent study titled "The State of Internet Security: Protecting Children Online," by Webroot Software, 43% of children aged 11 to 17 who use social-networking sites reported having been contacted online by complete strangers, while 37% said they've received a sexually explicit e-mail or pop-up advertisement over the past year. An April 2007 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, "Teens, Privacy & Online Social Networks," had similar findings: Of the 55% of teens who have online profiles on a social-networking site, 43% said they've been contacted by strangers. Although 65% of these teens said they ignored the contact or deleted it, 21% admitted following up on the solicitation. And many observers say these numbers are inaccurate, as children are notoriously unreliable when self-reporting behaviors they know will be frowned upon.

"The number of kids who are willing to set up meetings with people they don't know in real life is off the charts," said Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer and executive director of Wired Safety, a Web site devoted to helping victims of cyber-abuse, ranging from online fraud to cyber-stalking and child safety. A 1999 study conducted by the Department of Child and Family Studies at the University of Southern Florida -- to date the largest study of teenage girls' online behavior -- found that 12% of the 11,000 girls polled had arranged face-to-face meetings with strangers they met online. But at seminars for middle- and high-school students that Aftab regularly conducts across the country, she routinely finds between 20% and 25% of kids openly admit to arranging such meetings. "And you know it's larger than that, because kids don't talk," Aftab said. "They don't want to get into trouble."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children operates the CyberTip Hotline, created in 1998, to let members of the public report child exploitation. Today 2,300 to 3,000 cases are reported each week, "The numbers speak for themselves," said Michelle Collins, director of the NCMEC.

Previous
1 of 6
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Agile Archive
The Agile Archive
When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Elite 100 - 2014
Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
GE is a leader in combining connected devices and advanced analytics in pursuit of practical goals like less downtime, lower operating costs, and higher throughput. At GIO Power & Water, CIO Jim Fowler is part of the team exploring how to apply these techniques to some of the world's essential infrastructure, from power plants to water treatment systems. Join us, and bring your questions, as we talk about what's ahead.