It’s 2009 – Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

March 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

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Today’s teenagers are speeding down the information superhighway with no seatbelt, and many concerned parents don’t know which way to steer the wheel.  Every generation of parents have to worry what their children are up to.  Parents seek to discover what their children are trying to communicate and more importantly who is communicating with them.  With teenagers especially, this task becomes even more difficult because they are not very cooperative.  In today’s culture, children are not looking for trouble on the streets late at night, they are doing it from the privacy of their own bedrooms.  The problem with this is sexual predators are doing the same thing.  Predators have found a very comfortable and seemingly safe environment to devise easily executed scams to meet, mingle, manipulate, and seduce kids.

One of today’s fastest growing websites for teenagers is MySpace.com.  You may have never heard of MySpace but I can guarantee your children probable have.  MySpace describes itself as “a place for friends”.  Kids chat, mingle, maintain online journals known as “blogs,” and post information about themselves and their friends.  On the surface this seems like an innocent concept and it can be if children take safety precautions.  It can also become a great intelligence source for predators who want to hurt children.  When a typical teenager is walking down the street late at night they have their guard up.  They are ready for anything that seems dangerous and have a plan of action.  When many of these same kids are on the internet late at night they let their guard down.  This is exactly what predators are waiting for.  MySpace is not alone; Xanga, LiveJournal, and Yspy are some other online internet blog sites, which act as late night social hubs for teenagers.

Exactly how big is the problem of predators soliciting children on MySpace? “The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has received at least 288 MySpace-related complaints, according to U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in Pittsburgh.”

The good news for parents is that MySpace and the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children have recently teamed up and will be working together to make MySpace a safer environment for kids by setting age limits for users and policing the site on a more regular basis.  With 69 million members, these two groups will have their hands full and will need help from parents.

What can parents do to protect their children?  The most important thing is education and observation.  However, you can consider the appropriateness of the following:

1. Don’t allow your kids to have a personal computer in their bedroom.  Keep the computer in an area where there is less privacy, such as the family room.

2. Look at your children’s internet profile for sites such as MySpace and set up an account and get familiar with the site.

3. Make your children “lock down” their profiles.  This allows only their friends to see personally identifiable information.

4. Look at their “buddy” lists.

5. Look at the instant messenger history on the computers they use.

Instant messenger history can give parents a sense of what their children are communicating online, but only if parents can decipher what is being communicated.
To make a parent’s job even more difficult, kids are using codes when communicating by instant messenger, or text messaging between cell phone users.  As with any form of such communications it can be used for good or bad.  They can be used to communicate between your child and a long time friend or an online predator.

The following example illustrates how some kids communicate in ways parents may not understand.  Dialogue that seems innocuous and benign may in fact be very serious and require attention.  Parents cannot be expected to see the warning signs if the signs are in a different language.

Terry:   Hi Katie!
Katie:   DIKU?
Terry:   Terry!
Terry:   From school.
Katie:   MorF?
Terry:   MOTOS! NIFOC!
Katie:   TMI!!
Terry:   PANB?
Katie:   No, working.
Terry:   Lookin’ for LTR?
Katie:   LTS!
Terry:   WTGP?
Katie:   Sure, W/E.
Terry:   O.K.
Katie:   P911, G2G!
Terry:   CUL.

Now let’s look at the same chat after it has been deciphered:

Terry:   Hi Katie!
Katie:   Do I know you?
Terry:   Terry!
Terry:   From school.
Katie:   Male or Female?
Terry:   Member of the opposite sex.
Katie:   Too much information!!!
Terry:   Parents are nearby?
Katie:   No, working.
Terry:   Looking for long term relationship?
Katie:   Laughing to myself!
Terry:   Want to go private?
Katie:   Sure, whatever.
Terry:   O.K.
Katie:   Parent alert! Got to go!
Terry:   See you later.

It is crucial for parents to know not only with whom their children are communicating with but also what is being communicating.  For more information on online chat abbreviations log onto www.missingkids.com.

So what can parents do when all else fails? There are several commercially available monitoring programs available such as Child Protector Internet Filter, Parental Controls 2.0.5, KidsBrowser 3.1.1, and Safe Eyes 2006 2.0.  For a small cost these programs can tell you exactly what your children are doing and help you steer the wheel.

Some other valuable resources for parents are: www.i-safe.org , www.safekids.com, and www.Protectkids.com.

Detective Wayne Halick is a Licensed Private Detective and the agency director of Millennium Investigations, Inc.  http://www.dadsdetective.com/

You can e-mail Detective Halick at halickpi@sbcglobal.net. His agency is located at 358 W. Army Trail Road, Unit 140-355, Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108. Their telephone number is 630-543-5500.

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Entry filed under: Child Abduction, Fathers & Families, National Center For Missing & Exploited Children, Parenthood, Sex Offenders. Tags: , , , , , , .

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