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Editorial: Talk to youth about internet dangers

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.

Carroll Lutheran School is inviting not only its students, but parents and children from the entire community to a presentation at the school Dec. 5 called "Innocence Stolen: Protecting our Children Online," by Vincent DeVivo, a community outreach specialist for the United States Attorney's Office District of Maryland.

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In particular, the program will address issues such as social networking, cyber bullying, sexting and internet predators, and provide prevention and intervention strategies as well as Internet safety resources.

Because of the mature nature of the topics being discussed, the talk is recommended for children in sixth-grade or older, at parents' discretion. But many of today's youth are getting their first taste of the internet at the elementary school age.

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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.

The best time to talk to a child about online safety is when they start to do anything involving the internet, but tailoring the conversation to make it age appropriate. Sexting probably isn't an appropriate discussion to have with a 7-year-old, but talking about the importance of using passwords and applying common sense lessons from the real world to the online one — don't accept gifts or share personal information with strangers, for example — is good knowledge to impress upon youngsters.

And it's not just about protecting our own children on the web. Much is said about those who are subject to cyber bullying, for example, but rarely do we talk to our kids about not being the bully and reminding them that, especially online, once something is out there, it's hard if not impossible to take it back.

Even adults who grew up with the internet as part of their daily lives don't have all the answers, however. That's where a presentation from an expert like DeVivo is helpful. DeVivo told us the program is revised regularly to keep up with ever-changing challenges youth are facing online. So even if you've seen a similar presentation before, there might be something new you haven't thought of or didn't even know existed that may be addressed.

The presentation will take place at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 5, in the gymnasium at Carroll Luthern School, located at 1738 Old Taneytown Road in Westminster. While the event is free and open to the public, contact the school at 410-848-1050 or email office@clsedu.org if you wish to attend.



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