i-Safe training at UCMS

Parents attend i-Safe training in Blairsville, Georgia

Educators, community members, government officials, policemen, and parents recently attended an ongoing training session designed to teach Union County parents about internet safety. Information packets were handed-out that included chat-room abbreviations, internet terms, and valuable i-Parenting tips.

Melissa Wallace, parent volunteer and organizer of the event, introduced school officials and special guests. She welcomed everyone and explained the purpose of the training. "Predators are out there and searching for just the right online profile. Trusting and curious middle-school age kids are prime targets. Each one of us must stand up against anyone or anything that will harm our children. We must be equipped with the tools to protect our kids."

Union County Middle School teacher Bob Williams stressed the fact that parents need to become involved. He said, "We need to train our kids in safe ways to use the internet. Parents don't need to have advanced computer skills to monitor what kids are doing online. They just need to have some guidelines." Williams presented an informative slideshow that covered such topics as predator identification and warning signs.

Warning signs include a lack of communication and unexplained phone calls. Williams says, "If your child minimizes the screen when you approach, that's a warning sign." He adds, "We don't want parents to take away internet privileges; that's not what we're here to do. The internet and email are great tools that provide access to many resources. We just want to keep children safe. Kids need to realize that responsible adults do not proposition kids."

"When a 40 year old man pretends to be 12, it is a crime," says Sgt. Russell Walker. "We have ways to find out the real identity of internet users by tracing their IP addresses. If you suspect a predator is chatting online with your child, call your local police department."

The same goes for internet bullies. Cyber bullying is a growing problem on the internet. Save the bully's message and screen name, then report the incident to schools and local law enforcement agencies.

There are many ways to keep children safe when online. Keeping the computer in an open area and making certain children know all online buddies personally is a start. Children should also realize that personal profile information should not be given out and is not required for access to favorite sites.