Internet safety should be a concern

Thursday, October 25, 2007

As I've confessed in past editorials, I am close to being technologically illiterate. Yes I can paginate a paper using my computer each week. Yes, I can receive and send e-mails and even correctly attach a photo from time to time, and yes, I can add a "Favorite" web site to my Excite home page. But when a problem arises with my computer, I am more than likely going to need the support from my staff here at the newspaper or I have to ask one of my sons for help.

My children understand computers much better than I ever will. They grew up using computers in their classrooms and at home. When I was growing up, computers were still huge machines hidden in the middle of big buildings somewhere. I took an electric typewriter to college and my son took his laptop. I first learned to use a computer when I was a student reporter at the Columbia Missourian. After writing stories by long hand, I was thrown into a newsroom setting and forced to learn how to compose stories on the computer by trial and error or be left behind.

Computers are an amazing invention, but with the technology gap that exists between generations, it is easy for young people to fall prey to the negative side of technology, namely the Internet, without parents knowing it. Not everything about the Internet is evil. It provides immediate access to infinitesimal amounts of information and allows people to communicate with one another around the globe in seconds.

The massive size of the Internet also provides the perfect cover for on-line predators and pornographers, and it is from this side of the Internet that we as parents must protect our children. According to a recent survey conducted by researchers at the University of New Hampshire, 42 percent of Internet users age 10 to 17 who were surveyed reported that they had seen on-line pornography in the past year. Of those, 66 percent said they did not want to view the images and had not sought them out. More than one-third of 16- and 17-year-old boys surveyed said they had intentionally visited X-rated sites in the past year and had no trouble accessing them despite being under age.

These statistics alone should grab the attention of our adult readers, especially those with children at home. It's important that parents learn about the Internet and not use ignorance as an excuse to allow their children to wander into the trouble and filth that awaits them if they are allowed to surf the web unobserved and without restrictions.

In an effort to help educate adults and students about Internet safety, the Cassville High School FBLA Chapter will be offering a free workshop on Thursday, Nov. 8. Hands-on instruction will include access websites and research safety concerns as well as educational websites for the parent and child. This course will be taught by CHS students and is open to all parents.

According to Shelley Henderson, CHS FBLA advisor who will be assisting with the course along with fellow advisor Chris Fenske, most parents she has spoken to are intimidated by the Internet and think they don't have the information they need to protect their children from its dangers. "Through this workshop, we hope to empower parents with skills and strategies to keep their kids safe," Henderson said.

Due to limited computer lab space, registration for the Internet safety course is required and can be completed by calling the CHS Business Department at 847-5363. The first 60 who register are guaranteed a seat at the workshop.

Don't let lack of knowledge keep you from protecting your child. Plan now to attend this course and learn enough to help your child utilize the Internet and their computer in an educational, responsible and safe manner.