The Internet has literally opened up a world of information, education and communication possibilities. It allows us to book travel reservations, read news from around the world, shop and communicate with friends all from the comfort of home, work or even our favorite coffee shop. For most people using the Internet has become a part of daily life and is a positive and safe experience.
However, the Internet is also a place where predators lurk, waiting for their next victim. A great deal of content exists online is not appropriate for children. This content can include nudity or other sexually explicit material; hate or racist web sites; promotional material about tobacco, alcohol, or drugs; graphic violence; information about satanic or cult groups; or even recipes for making bombs and explosives at home. Theft of personal information is also a growing problem. It is important to check the legitimacy of a web site before giving out personal information, including your name, social-security number, address, telephone number, and credit-card numbers.
For law enforcement, we must consider the dark side of the internet when we are confronted with the daunting task of responding to parents whose young son or daughter has gone missing. Because of technology and the Internet, we must always consider the possibility that any child who goes missing "may" have met up with someone they initially encountered online.
Today’s cell phones are not just mobile telephones; they’re also web browsers, instant messengers, and E-mail terminals. In other words, just about everything you can do from an Internet-connected personal computer, you can also do from a cellular telephone. Text-messaging allows users to send and receive short messages through their cellular telephones. Users of all ages need to be extremely cautious about the way they use this new cell phone technology, especially when it comes to sharing digital photographs or movies. Pushing a few telephone buttons can send an image, telephone number, and mobile E-mail address to the wrong person. It’s even possible to use your cell phone to instantly post photographs on the web for all to see.
NetSmartz® is an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® and Boys & Girls Clubs of America for children (ages 5-17), parents, guardians, educators, and law enforcement that uses age-appropriate, 3-D activities to teach children how to stay safer on the Internet. The NetSmartz Workshop can be accessed at www.NetSmartz.org and www.NetSmartzKids.org.