Keeping students safe on the internet

Millions of adolescents and teens utilize the internet to communicate with friends and family. But in doing so, they leave themselves vulnerable to predators who can take advantage of the same technology. Unless a computer is situated in a common family area within easy viewing, parents may not be able to control their children’s internet use. Unfortunately, even a cursory survey of any news service indicates that parents have valid concerns about who else may be lurking in cyberspace.
Facebook, with 70 million users, is the second largest social networking site in the world. It has recently announced procedures for safeguarding users from unwanted contacts. This agreement comes several months after MySpace, which counts over 200 million users, announced that it would put methods into place that would help to identify the ages of users and protect them from cyber-bullies and sexual predators. Only Texas has not endorsed the MySpace policies because lawmakers in that state want quicker action on verifying users’ ages and identities than the measures included in the pacts. According to Education Week, the changes proposed by Facebook include “banning convicted sex offenders from the site, limiting older users’ ability to search online for subscribers under 18, and joining a task force seeking ways to better verify users’ ages and identities.
The Attorney General of Connecticut, who announced the agreement on May 9, is among those from forty-nine states to endorse the changes. He stated, “The agreement marks another watershed step toward social networking safety, protecting kids from online predators and inappropriate content,” Facebook will add more than forty new safeguards to protect young users. Some of the precautions include:
Ensuring that companies offering services on its site comply with its safety and privacy guidelines.
Keeping tobacco and alcohol ads from users too young to purchase those products.
Removing groups whose comments or images suggest they involve incest, pedophilia, cyber-bullying or other inappropriate content.
Sending warning messages when a child is in danger of giving personal information to an unknown adult.
Reviewing users’ profiles when they ask to change their age, ensuring the update is legitimate and not intended to let adults masquerade as children.
“Building a safe and trusted online experience has been part of Facebook from its outset,” said Chris Kelly, Facebook’s chief privacy officer. ”
Of course, parents who are involved with their children know where they are and with whom they are communicating. They are the best sentinels of all.

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