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Workshop provides parents with tips for keeping kids safe online

Statistics say that 22% of kids admit to meeting someone face-to-face who they first had met online.

June 12, 2012|By Joanna Clay

With kids as young as 6 having access to iPhones and iPads, watching what children do online is getting more complicated.

Even Top of the World fifth-graders are using the photo app Instagram, according to Principal Ron LaMotte.

On June 5, parents gathered in the Laguna Beach High School library to hear tips on how to protect their kids online.

Parents may not be there 24/7 to observe their kids' online activity, so the message was simple: communicate.

Jackie Parker, who works in technology services for the Laguna Beach Unified School District, and Asst. Principal Bob Billinger drilled the importance of explaining the lasting effects of online publishing and how actions such as nasty messages or inappropriate photos could lead to criminal charges. On a smaller scale, inappropriate photos and posts online can affect a person's chances of getting a job or attending college.

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Asking if someone has a Facebook is akin to asking if someone has a phone nowadays. Parker showed parents how to incorporate more transparency into their child's online interactions.

She urged parents to not only have their children's passwords handy, but to use Facebook's notification system, which alerts you via text or email if an update has been made to a Facebook page. She also showed the parents how to change privacy settings and make sure their child's information is not public.

She noted that kids use "hook-up" websites to meet other kids, where they could potentially meet adults posing as children. Such sites include Look Up, Hook Up and Hot Or Not.

According to statistics released by the National Assessment Center, distributed by the school district, 22% of kids admitted to meeting someone face-to-face who they'd first met online. Other stats included 79% of kids who posted pictures on social media sites and 29% who revealed their last names on such sites.

Parker went through the steps to set up a Google alert, by visiting google.com/alert, and to set up a notification for when new information on your child is posted to the web.

Parker showed a video called "Soccer Girl," which is on the district's Haiku page. The video showed a set-up situation where parents wanted to show their daughter how easy it was to obtain personal information through chatting online.

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