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Cyber-tech guru offers valuable tips

January 29, 2014|By Kate Rogers

Cyber technology is changing so fast it's almost impossible for parents to monitor.

In the past, parents knew the world in which their children were growing up and could guide and protect them accordingly. This is no longer assured since the landscape changes almost daily. Parents are left stumbling around in the dark while their tech-savvy kids move at lightning speed through this uncharted new world.

It is estimated that the average teen spends five hours a day online (nearly one-third of his or her waking time), according to a 2013 study by Internet security company McAfee. This same study revealed that:

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• 70% of teens hide their online behavior from their parents

• 50% clear their browser history on a regular basis

• 32% view pornography on purpose

• 25% report having cheated on tests using cell phones

• 17% have hacked their friends' accounts

• 15% turn off web filters and other parental controls

• 15% have met up with a person introduced online

• 10% have created a duplicate Facebook account to be free of parental review

Even more disturbing is that these behaviors are trending upward, even as the average age of a child's first cell phone is going down (currently at 10 to 12 years old, but estimated to be several years younger in Laguna Beach).

Scott Burnett, the owner of Lake Forest-based Integrity Computer Concepts, gave a seminar on cyber safety at the Artists Theatre in Laguna Beach on Jan. 15. Against a background of current Internet usage patterns, he provided a host of practical tips and tools — many of them free — that can be installed on home systems and through cell phones to enable parents to protect their children.

Cyber bullying is an area of vulnerability for our children, yet only 20% of kids know what to do if it happens. Last fall Rebecca Sedwick, 12, of Florida committed suicide after persistent cyber bullying followed her from one middle school to another.

While her mother monitored Facebook, she didn't know the girl was using the apps Kik and Askfm, which invite people to anonymously make comments, often hurtful. Burnett recommends talking to your kids using "what if" questions, keeping their cell phones and laptops out of the bedroom as long as possible, looking for signs of depression and removing apps like Kik.

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