The average teenager is online an average of 5.5 hours a day. Being online is not just surfing the web going into different web sites. Most children and teens are drawn to chat rooms, instant messaging and email. According to the FBI, there is a “100 percent chance” kids will encounter a sexual predator in one of the 40,000-plus chat rooms that criminals visit.
Chat rooms are the new “party lines” of the past. Remember coming home from school and calling your friends to discuss the day? Well, now kids are getting online, chatting about their day with strangers from all over the country, all over the world. Usually they are offering bits and pieces of personal information, which is being collected by a predator who is carefully, over time, building a ‘file’ on a completely innocent, non-suspecting child. In fact, 75 percent of children and teens report sharing personal information about them and their families to complete strangers in chat rooms.
It’s all terribly frightening.
Children and teens are increasingly using the Internet – for finding information for school projects, for games and entertainment, and for communicating with friends. Unfortunately, as more and more children use the Internet, it’s also used in increasingly cunning ways by criminals to abduct and exploit those children.
The only way to ensure the safety of the millions of children who use the Internet each day is through education – becoming informed about the problem and learning ways to keep children free from harm.