Protecting Kids From Online Trouble

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"I have not signed up for MySpace or Xanga, but a ton of my friends have," student Sarah McKneely said.

McKneely is one of few. She's an eighth grader at Stephen F. Austin Middle School and has refrained from sharing her profile online.

"It's just more of what's the point of this," McKneely said.

She says many of her friends have run into problems with the popular sites. One of her friends was even called by a complete stranger.

"She was really scared and she shut down her site," McKneely said. "She told her mom and her mom called the principal at my school to send out awareness about what could happen."

The profile sites are websites where you can post information. Whether it's where you live, your class schedule, or even a picture of yourself. All the information becomes available to the world.

Sarah's mom Susan is taking steps to keep her daughter safe.

"We've asked her to be out where we are you know," Susan McKneely said. "It's not because we don't trust her, but because there's a lot that can happen."

But not all parents think like Susan. Many are unaware of internet dangers.

"It's out there and you need to be protected from it," Cray Crouse with the city of Bryan said.

Crouse is one of the coordinators of an upcoming internet safety seminar, designed to educate parents about the World Wide Web.

"Some parents don't really understand what the technology is," Crouse said. "They don't know how it’s available and how easily your children have access to it. The seminar is mainly to heighten awareness and help parents understand."

"The internet is a wonderful tool because they learn things they can't learn anywhere else," Susan McKneely said. "But at the same time, I hope it makes parents more aware and more watchful."

The free local seminar will discuss the truth about online communities. The seminar will teach parents how to understand the technology your kids are using, find out which of your kids' favorite Web sites are safe or pose threats, decipher the chat codes that kids use on their computers and cell phones, talk to your kids so they understand the importance of being safe and smart, and realize that online gaming may not be as innocent as you think.

The seminar will be held Thursday, Feb. 23 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Children's Museum of the Brazos Valley. The Museum is located at 111 East 27th Street, Bryan. The seminar is a partnership among the City of Bryan, Bryan Independent School District, Cox Communications, Cingular Wireless and MicroAge College Station.