The phenomenon of internet, online journals or "blogs" is an issue that is becoming an increasingly important topic in discussing the safety of our children. This is a national issue, involving students across the country. On November 10th, I was watching Dateline NBC and was very disturbed by the show Catching Potential Internet Sex Predators with Correspondent Chris Hansen. It highlighted how teenagers can spend hours chatting online, and on the other end of that instant message could be a complete stranger - or a sexual predator. It's a dangerous side of the Internet, one that's growing and many children are at risk. The problem seems to be getting worse - and the profile of the suspected predators more frightening. At any given time 50,000 predators are on the Internet prowling for children and the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children tells us that one in five children online have been solicited for sex.Information has come to my attention regarding these journal and blogs. I was surprised and distressed to see the amount and level of involvement on the part of some of our students. Our students are posting a great amount of personal information with pictures of themselves and other students.This poses two major concerns:
- The personal information and pictures posted are available for the public to view. Internet predators frequently use this type of information to identify potential targets.
- Students are posting personal information and pictures which clearly show these students involved in various inappropriate and closely illegal activities. There are many references to alcohol and drug use, as well as, strong sexual content.
Some of the recommendations that we received from the FBI are listed below:
The most commonly used online journal sites are myspace.com and xanga.com. Be mindful there may possibly be other general sites. Please review these when you have an opportunity.As always, we will continue to keep parents informed and updated on this and other issues that arise. If you have any questions, please contact your building principal.
- Communicate, and talk to your child about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger. Discuss internet safety and specifically discuss the dangers of posting and giving out personal information.
- Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
- If your child has their own "blog" or journal, review the content and pictures.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
- Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.
- Always maintain access to your child's on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
- More information can be obtained from the following website and the attached Internet Safety guidelines from the Bergen County Prosecutors Office:
Internet Safety Guidelines