MANILA, JULY 25, 2007
 (STAR) Traffic in online child pornography has exploded in recent years, and researchers have not known what proportion of men who downloaded images of children were also molesters; the new study, some experts say, should be made public as soon as possible, to identify men who claim to be ‘just looking at pictures’ but are in fact going beyond voyeurism.

Be it in chat rooms, on Instant Messenger or on social networking sites, children are entering the cyber universe unguarded from dangers that can put them, as well as their family and friends, in serious risk.

Many young users are freely and carelessly providing personal information such as their name, birth date, address and telephone number, to people or strangers they meet online.

Since parents can’t always prevent their children from visiting such websites, it is crucial that they speak to their kids about the consequences of risky online behavior and what safety precautions are required when interacting with others on the Internet.

Symantec Corp., a global leader in consumer and business software solutions, advises parents to be mindful of the common places young people visit online, the potential risks involved, and best practices to keep their children safe:

Chat, discussion and news groups — Messages posted on such public forums are available for consumption by anyone, anywhere. From the simply curious to potential employers, online users are able to search for copies of messages along with the names of groups to which your child subscribes, which can be kept indefinitely.

What parents can do:

• Make sure your kids participate in chat or discussion groups under a pseudonym or alias.

• Inform your child to be discreet, and not to provide any personal information.

• Use a disposable e-mail address that can be discarded.

• Some groups that store old messages offer tools that allow you to delete them for good.

Social networking sites — These popular websites offer an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, group, photos, music and video. Young people need to understand that there are real people beyond the screen not just their friends. Posting private information allows cyber predators to have access to a diary, blog and photos without having to go to chat rooms.

What parents can do:

• Be involved in building your child’s online networking page and regularly monitor their usage and the content and information that is placed online.

• Talk to your child about how his page should reflect who he is, and that he should be thoughtful about the appropriateness of comments and images he posts.

• Make sure to note your child’s display name and password in order to access his profile.

• Be vigilant of the friends that your child is communicating with and make sure you know who they are and acquaint yourself with their parents.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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