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Rebecca Hagelin / Feb. 23, 2010

Internet Safety 101

Last week a comprehensive new set of parental resources designed to keep kids safe in our high-tech world was unveiled by the non-profit organization, Enough Is Enough. This fabulous package of resources is called, Internet Safety 101.

I had the privilege of helping to found Enough Is Enough way back in 1992, and currently serve as a pro-bono member of its Advisory Board. However, I can’t take any credit for the Internet Safety 101 line of products. They are the brain child of EIE’s president – Donna Rice Hughes. She is a remarkable woman whose vision is to create an environment in which children and families can enjoy all the benefits of the internet, without falling victim to the many dangers. Today’s column is the first in a three-part series that outlines the three greatest online-dangers to our young people: pornography, predators, and web 2.0 risks – and what parents and educators can do to minimize the risks.

Back when I started my personal work to help protect women, children and families from hard-core and illegal pornography, the greatest threat was the neighborhood video store. Although many of them rented plenty of raunchy movies, the garbage was usually segregated from the rest of the videos, kept in a back room with its own curtained doorway. The fact that the videos were shoved off into the corner was enough of a social stigma to keep any self-respecting person from entering the room. Everyone pretty much knew that any man who walked through that curtain was a pervert. My, how times have changed.

Today, the worst of the worst of pornography can be found in the typical American home right in our own family rooms. And the largest consumers of online porn aren’t unkempt men in trench coats – they are our nation’s teenagers. Enough Is Enough reports that 70 percent of accidental access occurs in the home. So the supplier isn’t the seedy porn store owner - it’s now moms and dads who unwittingly introduce and provide an endless supply of violent, hard-core pornography to their own sons and daughters through that great pornography portal, the internet.

The harms of pornography should be self-evident. But in a world where some 97 billion dollars are made from creating insatiable addictive appetites for the abuse and degradation of other human beings, the goal of the pornographers is to try and normalize or “laugh off” the behavior. But it is no laughing matter.

The evidence is clear: regular use of pornography leads to sexual compulsions in all ages of users, an increase in the number of sexual partners in teens and adults, infidelity for those who are married, and sexual aggression and negative attitudes about monogamy and marriage in general. You can read more about the host of personal and relational ills at www.internetsafety101.org

I’ve made it a focus of my work over the last few years to let parents know that if you have the internet in your home, you must have a reliable filter. But there’s much more you should do. The Internet Safety 101 program will help guide and equip you to fight back and protect your kids from the pornographers who would rob them of their childhoods and hold them captive to a lifetime of addiction.

Internet Safety 101 can best be described as, “A comprehensive DVD teaching series, workbook and Web site that uniquely educates, equips and empowers parents, educators and other caring adults with the knowledge and resources they need to protect kids from dangers across all Internet enabled devices.” It truly is a one-stop shop for everything you need to know. The program teaches you how to monitor the sites that are used in your home (remember, your kids friends are likely to go online when they visit), the importance of using rules and tools on all internet enabled devices, how to talk to your kids about pornography, how to set guidelines and limits for internet use in general, and the warning signs to look for that indicate pornography addiction.

To learn more about this vital package of tools to help you parent in cyberspace, visit www.internetsafety101.org. Make sure you check out my column next week for information on how to protect your kids from online predators.

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