Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online

As parents, it can often be hard to keep up with your children’s internet usage, let alone the latest websites, online interactive tools, or technologies. Now OnGuard Online has created a great resource for parents that gives an overview of specific technologies and ways to talk to your kids about their online activities, titled, Net Cetera: Chatting With Kids About Being Online. The guide is available for free online download, or you can order a free physical copy of the guide as well as reprint it, give it away, or reuse the material in any way that is most useful to you.

Download a free copy here.

Order a free copy here.

(Thanks to iKeepSafe for the tip)

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October 20, 2009 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

‘Zero Tolerance’ May Harm More Than it Helps

The camping utensil brought to school by Zachary Christie

The camping utensil brought to school by Zachary Christie

Six-year-old first grader, Zachary Christie, was recently at the center of a debate over a school district policy when he brought a camping utensil to school. The tool looked like a pocket knife and contained a fork, spoon, can opener, and a small knife. For bringing a deadly weapon to school, Zachary was suspended for five days and was prohibited from returning to Downes Elementary School until after 45 days at an alternative school. Zach says he brought the tool to school so he could eat his pudding. (source)

The Christina School District, in Newark, Delaware, has a so-called “zero-tolerance” policy against bringing dangerous items to school, spurred mostly by safety concerns raised by Columbine and other school shootings. But after public outcry over the extreme sentence for a 6-year-old who wanted to eat pudding, the Christina School District decided to reexamine it’s harsh policy. “We need to recognize the cognitive level of these kids,” said school board member John Mackenzie. “We need to provide a little leeway.”

Political Rhetoric

“Zero-tolerance” is great political phrases. When a politician or a school board member up reelection uses it, they’re seen as “tough” on crime and someone who is protecting the public from all the bad people out in the world who want to harm them. But a one-size-fits-all approach to punishing criminals is rarely productive and can often be harmful to both the criminal and society.

Drug Policy

For example, ANY drug offense will bar the offender from receiving any future federal student aid money. This zero-tolerance policy means that any person convicted of possession of any amount of controlled substance can never receive federal loan or grant money to attend college. I realize that this punitive measure is meant as a deterrent to keep kids off drugs, but it also harms ex-drug users by denying them any help in getting an education and turning their lives around. On the other hand, if you are a child molester, rapist, or murderer, you can receive federal student aid without any problems.

Sex Offender Laws

In addition, sex offender residency restrictions are very popular for obvious reasons: no one wants a convicted sex offender living next door to them or next to a school or playground. However, overly harsh restriction laws also prevent former offenders from finding descent housing, pushing them to edges of society where their likelihood of re-offending is actually higher—as evidenced by the case of Philip Garrido. Offender residency restriction laws have also been used to keep sex offenders from attending church and receiving counseling, and, in Florida, has created a homeless sex offender camp underneath a bridge where over 100 registered sex offenders live, creating a public health and safety concern. These one-size-fits-all policies not only punish violent sex offenders like rapists and child molesters, but—in some states—punishes those who have urinated in public or had sex with their high school girlfriend after they turned 18.

Get Smarter

As citizens, we need to step back from zero-tolerance rhetoric and take a smarter approach to handling criminals in our society—not a “tougher” approach. Fortunately, the Christina School Board reversed its zero-tolerance policy and allowed for the age and cognitive ability of the perpetrator to be taken into account when assigning punishment. Now that Zach can go back to school, what has he learned from the whole experience? I’m sure he’s learned not to take a camping tool to school anymore, but how will this experience affect the way he views teachers, rules, law enforcement, and any other form of authority from now on? Will he see them as allies and protectors, or will he see them as vindictive enforcers who would rather punish instead of teach? For his sake and for ours, I hope it is the former.

Check out this video of the Christina School District debating the policy, as well as reactions from concerned parents:
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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October 15, 2009 at 5:00 am 3 comments

Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention just released their study, Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. The study included over 4,500 juveniles age 17 and younger and covered topics from bullying, to child maltreatment, to sexual victimization. Here are some interesting findings:

  • Children 7-10 years old are the most likely to experience physical assault/bullying from siblings and peers
  • Nearly 1 in 10 surveyed had been sexually victimized, and nearly 20% of all girls are sexually victimized by the time they are 17
  • 1 in 5 children suffer maltreatment (physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and more) by the time they are 17
    Children 10-13 are at the highest risk for kidnapping than any other age group
  • Overall, adolescents age 14-17 are at the highest risk for witnessing or being the victim of physical abuse and sexual victimization of all types

Any violence against children is too much violence against children. Talk to your kids about what they can do to protect themselves from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Foster a relationship with your children that is open and honest, where they can feel safe talking to you about these issues. Overall, as adults and parents, we need to be the examples for our children. If we are physically, verbally, and emotionally abusive to them or others—or let abuse we see go unreported—they will learn from us.

Let’s all work together to stop violence against children. Here’s one organization that is trying to help: www.darkness2light.org. They have great resources for parents for raising awareness and combating child sexual abuse.

Read the entire results of the study here: http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/227744.pdf

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October 12, 2009 at 5:00 am Leave a comment

Teens Sued over Obscene Facebook Page

Four Chicago teens are facing a defamation lawsuit over a fake Facebook page they created for a teammate. The four teens created the fake Facebook profile page using their victim’s real name and cell phone number. Once the profile was up, they proceeded to post sexually explicit and racist comments on it, appearing to come from their victim, who they also portrayed as gay. By the time the profile was deleted, the four teens had amassed 580 friends on the fake profile. The mother of the victim, who lobbied Facebook to delete the profile, is now suing the four teens for defamation and emotional stress.

I think we can all agree that this type of behavior is unacceptable and that the boys who did this should be punished in some way. However, who will actually pay the price for their behavior? Their parents. If these four boys are found guilty, their parents will be paying damages.

This example shows that it is not just the kids involved who are affected by cyberbulling—whole families can suffer as a result. This lawsuit highlights the importance of talking to your children about ethical online behavior. Many teens think that they can get away with anything under the cloak of anonymity that the internet provides, but they are wrong. In fact, there are many ways that your identity can be tracked down over the internet, and that’s just what happened to these boys.

As technology progresses, and people begin to carry their internet identity around with them through cyberspace, the illusion of anonymity will breaking down further and further. It is important to start educating your children while they are young about appropriate online behavior (for example, check out Woogi World, a social media environment built to teach elementary school age kids about ethical and safe online behavior). Remember, if your son or daughter is being the bully, you could be the one to pay.

Sources:

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October 7, 2009 at 4:36 pm 3 comments

Eating Too Much Candy Leads to Life of Crime

A recently released study by researchers at Cardiff University in the U.K., found that children who eat candy everyday have an increased risk of being convicted of a violent crime by the time they are 34. The study found that almost 70% of respondents who had been convicted of a violent crime, recall eating candy almost every day as a child, compared to almost 42% of those who had never been arrested for a violent crime.

Clearly, there must be other factors at work. So the researchers looked at the data again to control for others factors, like parental permissiveness, urban or rural living, economic status, and more, but the results were surprisingly constant: Eating a lot of candy as a child led to higher rates of committing violent crime as an adult—regardless of other factors.

So what does this mean to you? Should you forbid your children from eating any and all sweets? Not necessarily. The results of this study raise more questions than answers. But researchers are looking into 2 possibilities: either chemicals in the candy are actually affecting brain functions/development, or some children already have issues with self-control, of which eating lots of candy is a symptom not a cause.

Let’s hope it’s the latter. I’d hate to stop giving out candy on Halloween.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/20091002/hl_time/08599192734700

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October 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm 1 comment

Preventing Child Abuse Through Education

The Future of Children, a collaboration between Princeton and the Brookings Institute, publishes a semi-annual journal focused on studies and issues regarding children and youth: challenges, concerns, trends, etc. This Fall’s issue dedicates its entire issue to preventing child abuse. The eight articles published this month cover issues like the effect of community efforts in preventing child abuse, preventing abuse through parent training, drug treatment, child protective services, and more.

To get a good understanding of current research regarding child abuse and prevention, you can download and read the entire journal for free here: http://www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/journals/journal_details/index.xml?journalid=71

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October 2, 2009 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

Pledge to Stop Distracted Driving

Although many states have created laws restricting or banning the use of cell phones, traffic fatalities related to cell phone use still kill hundreds of people each year and leave thousands of others injured—sometimes for life. Safe Kids USA, a non-profit agency dedicated to reducing accidental childhood injury through education, has created a pledge to stop distracted driving.

When you sign the pledge, you agree to stop talking or testing while driving, as well as any other activity that would divert your attention from the road while driving. The less people who drive distracted, the less accidents will occur. And that means saving hundreds of lives and preventing thousands of injuries.

Click here for more information and to sign the pledge.

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October 1, 2009 at 5:00 am 2 comments

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