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Police:

Internet safety is critical

Parents and teachers hear tips for keeping their kids safe and aware of dangers lurking online.

January 16, 2008|By Kelly Strodl

Local police gathered with parents and teachers Wednesday at Lincoln Elementary in Corona del Mar to discuss the dangers of social networking on the Internet for today’s kids.

The subject hit very close to home for a number of parents, having just heard the news of the assault that one Newport Beach girl endured at the hands of a group of Newport Harbor High School students. The assault, which went down at Pinkley Park on Ogle Street, was videotaped and posted by one of the students on MySpace and YouTube.

Newport Beach Police Crime Prevention Officer Andi Querry pointed out to parents that their kids can be the perpetrators of crimes as easily as they can be a victim.

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Illegally downloading, harassing, spreading hate messages or hacking just for the heck of it can spell trouble, she said.

According to Querry’s research of 1,070 polled teens between the ages of 13-17, 64% post personal videos, photos and written messages.

Females are more likely to post videos of themselves, Querry added. Other statistics show that 93% of teens between 12 and 17 use the Internet.

Also, 65% of the kids admitted to some unsafe or inappropriate activity on the web, and that’s just the ones who admitted to it.

Oftentimes with these postings the students unknowingly release far “too much information” about themselves to possible predators, Querry said.

One girl wrote every day on her blog about her daily routines, Querry said. On one occasion the girl wrote about how she had left her key locked in her house and how it was OK because the kitchen window was hard to close so she was able to crawl through.

“Already she is telling us that she is home alone every day after school,” Querry said.

More than anything, Querry urged parents that they are the best defense for their kid’s safety on the web.

Plenty of parental-monitoring software is out there, Querry said, adding that some software out there monitors every keystroke kids make.

But, “don’t rely on the software,” Querry said. “You have to actually be parenting and watching what your kids have access to.”

Another issue, mainly for young boys, comes in the form of online gaming where chats occur inside the game. The format allows pedophiles and predators to gain the trust of youngsters, Querry said.

“They think that person couldn’t possibly be a stranger if they’re playing a game with them,” Querry said.

Summer Bress has twin 10-year-old boys whom she said get lost in the world of online role-playing games.

“It’s motivating to know about the software out there,” Bress said.

Neither of Bress’ boys have a MySpace account and “nor will they ever in light of what I heard today,” she added.

For more information on web-monitoring software visit www.netsmartz.org.


KELLY STRODL may be reached at (714) 966-4623 or at kelly.strodl@latimes.com.

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