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April 10, 2003     411 Words

Parents Can Help Ensure Teen Safety on the Internet

CINCINNATI—For generations, parents have instructed their children to avoid talking to strangers. But what if those strangers are lurking inside Internet chat rooms? Online predators are the child stalkers of the new millennium, and parents should be aware of the potential dangers that await their oftentimes naïve and unsuspecting children.

Preventing the victimization of children and providing useful ideas for safe Internet navigation are featured in the May cover story of St. Anthony Messenger, entitled, “Protecting Children From Internet Predators” by William J. Byron, S.J. After April 18, the article will be posted at: :

Several years ago, Father William J. Byron, S.J., served on a committee led by former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, aimed at protecting children from pornography and instructing parents on safeguarding their children from Internet predators. Even though the committee completed a report on its research, Father Byron felt his job was unfinished. By giving a workshop on a Saturday last November at his parish, Holy Trinity, in Washington D.C., Father Byron and his team wanted to teach parents and their teens about safe Internet usage.

Father Byron was joined by John Rabun, chief operating officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Marianna Novielli and Michelle Collins, two knowledgeable staffers from that organization. The team immediately met with the teenagers and offered tips for online safety.

Novielli advised teenagers to avoid responding to strangers when they're in chat rooms and to use e-mail addresses that do not advertise their names or birth dates. "If a pedophile online is looking for a 13-year-old, he's going to chat with someone who has 1990 in his or her e-mail address," she says.

Michelle Collins addressed the parents, advising them to supervise their children's online activities, which includes e-mails, Web pages, chat rooms and instant messages. She also recommended that parents become affiliated with such Web sites as, a site designed for reporting suspicious and/or illegal activity.

Aside from good communication with their kids, parents should become better acquainted with the Internet. As one observer noted, "Keeping a child out of harm's way on the Internet has as much to do with a parent's ability to talk openly with a child as it does with how computer savvy a parent is."


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