Kids won't necessarily be safe online

When the days of summer boredom set in, children and young adults may be more apt to sit in front of a computer screen than a television. The Dieringer Research Group (DRG) recently conducted a survey of 1,735 random households for the National S...

When the days of summer boredom set in, children and young adults may be more apt to sit in front of a computer screen than a television.

The Dieringer Research Group (DRG) recently conducted a survey of 1,735 random households for the National School Board Foundation.

According to the survey results, 37 percent of parents said when their children began using the Internet they spent less time watching television.

The children surveyed said they use the Internet for educational purposes, playing games, e-mailing and spending time in chat rooms.

Online dangers


The Internet places a wealth of knowledge at one's fingertips and with information comes potential danger.

The DRG survey revealed the top three parental concerns that their children would encounter as pornography, undesirable adults and content involving violence or hate.

According to Park Rapids school District director of information and technology Jeff Hunt, dangers on the Internet are not limited to any age group or geographic location.

"The Internet has no boundaries," Hunt began, "and people can easily hide their identity."

He said online predators often find their prey in chat rooms and popular sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Xanga.

"They (online predators) often prey on adolescent insecurities to lure them into relationships," he said.

Cyber relationships can lead to meeting in person. Hunt strongly suggests using common sense and thinking twice before meeting a friend from the online community.

"Kids will do what they want," Hunt said. "So, at the very least they need to tell their friends where they're going and hopefully their friends will discourage them. If they still go ahead with the meeting, they should meet in a very public place and never at someone's house."



Hunt and technical support engineer Todd Kumpula have implemented a system that prevents and protects the Park Rapids School technology users from venturing into sites with inappropriate content.

A firewall that filters content was installed along with Spector Corporate Network Edition software that monitors the computer system for potential misuse.

The software actively records, archives, reviews and provides visual evidence of inappropriate activity with the computers connected to the school district. The program also monitors file sharing, a practice that infringes on entertainment industry copyright laws.

Parents can purchase similar programs to monitor their children's online activities or to block certain sites.

Hunt said the software costs under $50 and will monitor the content of every keystroke made.

"Parents can find out what sites have been accessed," Hunt said. "They (parents) could even disguise themselves and test their children by contacting them through an instant message. If the child responds appropriately when the boundaries of proper conduct are crossed, you know you've won and your child is being safe."

The Internet has free kid-friendly services that can be found in the advanced settings of search engines such as Google. Keywords can be added to prohibit sites from appearing during a search.


An example is if the word "porn" was added to the list of keywords, any site with that word in it wouldn't be allowed on the computer. Specific sites can also be added.

Park Rapids Police Chief Terry Eilers said the department doesn't have the means to perform 'sting' operations to apprehend online predators.

"If a parent or child is solicited, they can contact the department and we'll hand it over to the state for investigation," Eilers said.

College kids

College students can be victims of online predators, but often times it's their Web spaces that can cause trouble.

Millions of students are part of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Xanga where risqué photographs and comments about drinking, drugs and sexual exploits are often posted on pages students create.

Facebook is a unique site because it requires a college e-mail address to become part of the community and pages are restricted to friends and other users on the campus.

However, potential job employers can gain access to these sites, even Facebook.


Companies recruiting college students may use a search engine, such as Google, to conduct background checks. If a potential employer finds the candidate's page is morally questionable, the student may be overlooked for the job opportunity.

For more information on Internet safety go to: , or .

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