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Cyber strategies to protect children online

Parents will learn how to protect their children from cyber abuse and risks at a free seminar Wednesday, June 18, hosted by Youth Eastside Services (YES).

The class, entitled Safe Surfing: Old Threats, New Technologies” is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. at Interlake High School, 16245 NE 24th St., in Bellevue.

The seminar is the second of three online safety presentations, part of the 2008 Microsoft Parenting Lifeline Community Speakers Series, providing parents and other concerned community leaders with the tools they need to keep kids safe online. The final seminar is planned for October of this year. The events are free.

An expert panel will discuss and answer questions about cyber abuse and risks, including exploring new technology channels and devices, best practices for responding to and protecting against cyber dangers, and online safety tips and protection tools.

The use of technology through various device channels such as cell phones and the Internet continues to increase in popularity. With summer vacations around the corner, unstructured days can mean kids have more time to spend cyber surfing, and not just at home, but at a friend’s house, library, Internet café, through a cell phone or other public place offering online access.

While engaging in online activities is marketed as fun and hip, unsupervised use and access leaves the door wide open to allow anyone at any time to interact with a child, and can mean parents have no way of knowing the types of exchanges “cyber friends” may be having with their kids.

In fact, cyber abuse is more common than many realize. Just recently, a survey conducted by Teen Research Unlimited found that technology often plays a negative role in young relationships. The survey noted that cell phones aid in teen dating abuse, with 71 percent of teens noting that spreading rumors through cell phones and social-networking sites is a serious problem. The survey also found that parents have no clue this type of abuse is happening.

“We estimate that today nearly 80 million kids are online, and with so many children using the Internet, it is much easier for predators to find and exploit them,” said Seattle Police Detective Malinda Wilson. “We work hard every day to protect children who use the Internet. Adult supervision of children’s online activities is important in helping to reduce the amount of cyber crimes, which can include sexual exploitation of children, child pornography, child cyber-stalking, communication with a minor, and sexual assault of children.”

Internet safeguard protections such as blocks and filters are a good first step towards prevention, but good parenting and communication are key to keeping children safe online. In addition to the panel discussion, the “Safe Surfing Seminar” will include information on accessing tools and resources that help protect kids online, creating a climate of trust and open communication with children, and ways to protect your computer and devices. For details, visit the Youth Eastside Services Web site at www.youtheastsideservices.org or call 425-747-4937.

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