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Twenty-one percent of teen girls and 18 percent of teen boys had sent or posted nude or semi-nude images of themselves, according to a 2008 report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Nine percent of youth internet users had been exposed to "distressing sexual material" while online. One in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact.

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And in 27 percent of incidents, solicitors asked youths for sexual photographs of themselves, according to the National Sex Offender Public Website.

As the technological age continues to progress, and children younger and younger have access to the internet and social media, Carroll Lutheran School is working to try to keep kids safe.

These statistics, and many more like them, were the topic of discussion Monday night at the Carroll Lutheran School. Community Outreach Specialist Vince DeVivo, of the United States Attorney's Office, District of Maryland, came to talk to not only Carroll Lutheran School students and parents, but also to members of the community.

DeVivo spoke about internet predators and how the threat of danger is constant.

"They're at work 24 hours a day," he said.

Predators aren't just getting to kids through cellphones and tablets, DeVivo said, but also on gaming consoles like PlayStation and Xbox. These people look for kids who would be responsive, he added.

"They are very good listeners," he said. "Very good."

DeVivo also talked about internet bullying and how it's something that's very different than traditional bullying. Often times, he said, it's en masse.

And while parents can't control the internet and technological advances, DeVivo said, they can work to control their use.

Kids are "tech savvy," he said, but they're not street smart online. And because of this, it's important to put in boundaries and talk with kids about being smart and safe online.

Jolene Ford came out Monday evening with her daughter, Olya, 12, who attends Carroll Christian School.

DeVivo's presentation was eye-opening, Jolene Ford said.

"I learned a tremendous amount," she added.

Unlike parents of a generation earlier, many of today's parents may have grown up with the Internet. That doesn't mean they know everything there is about keeping their kids safe while using social media or browsing the web.

She said she will never look at social media and the internet the same way again. She said she and her husband have talked a lot about devices and online use when it comes to their daughter.

"It will continue the conversations that we've had," Ford added.

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With online use, what it comes down to is a set of golden rules, DeVivo said. It's important to follow rules from "real" life — kids shouldn't talk to strangers, share private information or agree to meet an online friend without parental consent.

It's important to remember information, like photos and videos, posted online can stay there forever, he said.

"There is a whole other world going on online," he added, "and we need to know more about it."

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twitter.com/emilychappell13



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