New efforts to promote internet safety

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The state Attorney General's Office is teaming up with faith-based communities to promote internet safety.

There is a need to spread the message of online safety to a wider audience. From banking to shopping to just plain communicating, the internet has made a lot of our lives easier, but it also makes it easier for criminals to prey on our families.

The veil of a computer screen allows criminals to disguise themselves to vulnerable web-users. A scary stat - one in seven children are sexually solicited online - evidence of the need for parents to educate themselves and their children.

"There's a lot of sunlight, there's a lot of great information out there, but there are shadows too where there are predators and where there are things, places, and experiences that we just don't want our children to have," said Rev. Doug Smith, Executive Director of Virginia Interfaith Center.

These days, the challenge is hard with social networking websites like facebook, twitter and myspace - and so many types of internet enabled devices. Parents can't just worry about the computer, there's the cell phone, PDA, and even some gaming systems that connect to the World Wide Web.

"All of the internet enabled devices have parental control tools, but they are underutilized because parent's don't even know they exist," said Donna Rice Hughes, President of Enough is Enough.

One book is looking to change that. It sounds like a college course, Internet Safety 101; instead it's a tool to empower parents. 1000 kits will be distributed to churches, synagogues and mosques across the commonwealth. The content is not religious, but the vast religious network is a way to ensure a lot of people get this information.

"Within the broad faith community is where you can find our children and their parents who are very active in their lives and want to make a difference," said Bill Mims, Virginia Attorney General.

"Our hope is that this material will show parents and churches first of the dangers that lurk even in the most innocent internet activities, and 2nd they will take the necessary precautions to protect their children," said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation.

For more information, you can visit the family internet safety link on the Attorney General's website, just click here.

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