sexual predators

Another Type Of Google Alert: Protect Your Children, Monitor Even Their "Harmless" Online Activities

Last year we formed a relationship with Enough is Enough — an organization that educates parents on Internet safety, as well as with the Interfaith Center for Public Policy and the Attorney General's office, to bring Internet education to parents through churches in Virginia. Through that effort, we've distributed dozens of Enough is Enough's very effective Internet 101 curricula. While the program focuses on protecting our children from Internet predators who stalk Facebook and other social networking sites, there are other dangers online that, while not physically threatening, are problems nonetheless. For example, the online conglomerate Google currently is promoting an art contest for students called "Doodle-4-Google," offering prize money to schools and prizes to winners. Sounds harmless enough and, for the most part, it is.

Except in early online parental consent forms (and forms distributed to schools) Google asked the children participating to hand over private information, such as home addresses, dates of birth and the last four digits of their social security numbers. This is information that is perhaps worth millions of dollars to marketers and retailers. They also ask for the children's place of birth — information that, when combined with one's date of birth, can be used to take a statistical guess about the first five digits of social security numbers.

Now, there is no evidence that Google plans to financially benefit from the information. It simply may plan to toss it. But if that's the case, why ask for it in the first place? Under pressure from advocacy groups, the company did change the parental consent form and no longer requires the social security number, but many schools participating in the contest still are using the original form.

This is just one example of why it is very important to monitor what our children are doing online and, just as important, teach them not to share personal information online. Whether it's sexual predators or marketing executives, our childrens' safety and personal information is highly valuable. Please take the time to monitor everything your children do online — even when it seems "harmless."

Enough Is Enough

Pastors For Family Values, our pastor outreach arm, works year round to provide an array of resources and opportunities that will have a direct affect on churches and ministries. One such resource we are proud to offer is the newly released Enough Is Enough: Internet Safety 101, designed to instruct pastors, educators and, most importantly, parents, on how to make the Internet safe for their children. To help best utilize this valuable resource, we are conducting Internet safety training in conjunction with Enough Is Enough and the Attorney General’s Office on Thursday, April 29, from 1:00-4:00 p.m., at Immanuel Baptist Church in Richmond. This training is designed for pastors, church lay leaders, school administrators or other ministry leaders. Each ministry represented will receive a complimentary four-lesson DVD and 200-page workbook (a $40 value).

This is program is relevant to everyone with a computer, cell phones, Playstations, etc., especially those with children in their home. Pornography is one of the most destructive forces in the decline of the American family. Recent studies published in the Journal of Adolescent Research indicate that 87 percent of young men and nearly 31 percent of young women report using pornography. The number is probably higher because many will not admit doing so, even anonymously.

Children also are prone to become targets for sexual predators if they don’t know how to protect themselves while navigating through social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Too often, parents just don’t know the dangers.

If you are a pastor or private school administrator, we urge you to attend this important training. If you can’t attend, please consider sending a youth pastor, an associate pastor or administrator or another leader from your ministry. We know attendees will find the session informative and helpful in tackling this difficult and crucial issue. With your participation and that of other church leadership from across the Commonwealth, Virginia will lead the way in protecting our children from the dangers of internet pornography and sexual predators. Children deserve a life of healthy family relationships, not one scarred by stolen innocence.

This free training will equip you with the resources you need to educate the members of your congregation to make their homes safe from the dangers of online pornography. Our young people are very adept at getting around the Web, so parents and Christian leaders need to stay informed and knowledgeable in order to provide proper guidance and instruction to them in this area.

If you would like more information concerning the Enough Is Enough training or curriculum, or to reserve a spot at the April 29 training, please contact Roger Pogge at roger@familyfoundation.org or call 804-343-0010.

Help Coming For Internet Safety While Waiting For General Assembly Action

On Tuesday, the Virginia Crime Commission decided to recommend no legislative remedies regarding "sexting," an obscene and predatory version of text messaging. The same day, The Family Foundation participated in a Capitol press conference (see coverage at  Richmond Times-Dispatch) with Attorney General Bill Mims, Enough is Enough and the Interfaith Center for Public Policy to announce a joint venture to educate churches on Internet safety.

The Internet is an expanse of exploration and offers a joy of discovery and learning, but it also has a dark side populated by hardcore pornography and sexual predators. Keeping children safe while they explore the Web is a full time job. To help parents, Enough is Enough produced "Internet Safety 101," a DVD program that helps parents understand the dangers of the Internet and how to protect their children.

As technology advances, the threats to children have moved far beyond chat rooms and My Space, to cel phones and even game systems like PS2 and Xbox. Unfortunately, too few parents are equipped to monitor everything that their children see online, or on their cel phone. "Internet Safety 101" provides the tools necessary for child protection.

At the news conference (see WHSV.com), we announced a joint effort between ourselves, the Attorney General's officePastors For Family Values (our pastors outreach ministry), and the Interfaith Center for Public Policy, where we will distribute 1,000 Internet Safety kits, upon request, to churches across Virginia. Churches can then use the material to train their congregations to better understand the threats that exist and how to combat them. We also will conduct a joint training for pastors and other church leaders on Thursday, March 4, 2010, in Richmond.

Here's a quote from Family Foundation President Victoria Cobb from the news conference (see WTVR.com/CBS6):

Over the years, The Family Foundation has urged the General Assembly to pass stronger penalties for child pornography and to do as much as possible to protect our children and our families on the Internet, but with the freedom that exists on the World Wide Web, we know that this goes far beyond anything government can really do. We as parents must take the necessary steps to protect our families. With the assistance of churches, we can educate and inform thousands more families, protect thousands more children, and hopefully, even save some lives. The materials produced by Enough is Enough are timely, they are effective, they are powerful, and they will absolutely help families in Virginia deal with the dangers that lurk on the Internet.

Clearly, these issues go beyond simply passing new laws (see WWBT/NBC12.com). We as parents, families and churches must do more to ensure that the experiences our children have on the Internet are safe. Our hope is that churches in our network will take advantage of these free resources and help their congregations learn the ins and outs of Internet safety.

If you’d like more information about this material for your church please call John Smith in our office at 804-343-0010 or e-mail him at john@familyfoundation.org.

InternetSafety2(Photo courtesy of the Office of Attorney General.)