New DARE 2B Cybersafe Takes DARE Kids Safety Into the 21st Century

Remember DARE? The kids safety program. If you're like me, you were probably part of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program when you were in elementary school. In fact, I can still recite the saying, “DARE to keep kids off drugs.” I think I even have a ruler printed with the slogan in a drawer somewhere.

Since 1983, DARE has partnered schools and law enforcement officials to teach kids how to avoid involvement with drugs, alcohol, gangs, and violence. In addition to the old standards, they have now begun addressing relatively new problems like cyberbullying, sexting, and online predators.

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Preventing Child Abuse

child abuse prevention monthThis past April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The month was dedicated to raising awareness about child abuse and, more importantly, to preventing it. The Internet adds a new dimension to child abuse, as children of all ages can become victims of online pedophiles and child pornography.

Protect your child by addressing the issue of child pornography early. No one – including smart kids, good kids, or happy kids – is exempt from the possibility of being victimized. Being informed is the only protection your kids have. Teach your child to avoid becoming a victim of a child predator or exploiter by:

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Dangers of Online Pornography for Kids, Tweens, and Teens

kids on computerLike most families today, our family sees the Internet is an indispensable part of life as we know it. Letters written laboriously with a pen or pencil? Looking up phone numbers in a 3-inch thick Yellow Pages? Opening up a bound encyclopedia for information? Honestly, I couldn’t imagine going a day without the Internet.

Even with all its charm and convenience, I have to say that seeing my oldest child reach the age where she’s starting to get online makes me more than a little apprehensive.

As a parent, I try to shield her from things that could be dangerous for her, and right now I have complete control over what comes into my home. But when she starts using the Internet, I know that there are lots of sexually explicit or violent images that she could potentially be exposed to.

The boundary between kids and online pornography is dangerously transparent. And it doesn’t just affect kids who are actively seeking out graphic material online. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, 25% of children have had unwanted exposure to sexual pictures in the last year.

Kids with their own email accounts, particularly free ones like Hotmail and Yahoo, inevitably get lots of spam ads for penis enlargement and “lonely girls who want to chat with you” delivered right to their inboxes.

Or they could be doing their homework and be exposed to graphic images online by accident. Try it yourself – type a female celebrity’s name into Google and click the “images” link on the upper righthand corner. The odds are pretty good that at least one suggestive or inappropriate image will come up – or more, depending on the celebrity. And Google images does not censor its pictures. Full-frontal nudity and graphic acts show up in image searches, regardless of the age of the child at the computer screen.

To compound the problem, Internet pornography is often much worse than the magazines kids a few decades ago might have passed around at school. Ernie Allen, CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, explains that online porn “is not your father’s pornography. It is graphic, it is explicit, it is deviant. It is aberrant. Kids are seeing content that no 12 or 13 year old is mentally, psychologically, or emotionally prepared to deal with.”

If you’re like me, at this point you’re wondering if just shutting off the Internet altogether isn’t such a crazy idea, after all. But it’s not feasible in the long run, and it’s failing to address the real problem. Even if kids aren’t exposed to online pornography in your own home, they could accidentally see it in a friend’s house or even at the computers in the school library. Teach them how to react when it happens: close the browser window and tell you that they’ve seen an explicit image online.

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Text Lingo Every Parent Should Know

Whether we’re talking about text lingo, friending people online or the pictures our kids post online, the best tool to minimize risky behavior online is our active involvement.  Most children, teens included, say that their parents are the strongest influence over the decisions they make.

But even kids that have active parents make mistakes and sometimes we have to protect our kids from other people.  Therefore it is important that you are at least familiar with some of the text lingo terms that would indicate your child could be headed for trouble.  Here is a small sample:

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Photo Sharing Site Safety for Parents

photo sharing websitesPhoto sharing websites like Flickr, PhotoBucket, and Shutterfly are becoming extremely popular. Signing up for a free account only takes a few minutes, and then you can upload all your family pictures, add captions, and share them with friends and relatives. Photo sharing sites are a great way to stay in touch with out-of-state relatives or catch up with friends you don’t see very often. And let’s face it – pictures of your own kid are too cute not to showcase. But many parents are using photo sharing sites much too freely, and it may be compromising the safety of their kids.

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We are pleased to announce that Bark will be taking over where we leave off. The uKnowKids mission to protect digital kids will live on with Bark. Our team will be working closely with Bark’s team in the future, so that we can continue making the digital world a safer, better place for kids and their families. While we are disappointed we could not complete this mission independently, we are also pleased to hand the uKnowKids baton to Bark.
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