Online IM Safety

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

April 29, 2006

Saturday night the Fluvanna County Sheriffs Department and an online safety group called Blue Ridge Thunder, talked to children, teens, and parents about the dangers lurking online, specifically within instant messaging.

Instant messaging is one of the most popular ways for kids to communicate over the internet with friends. Tens of millions of people have these IM accounts, and kids and teens can become easy targets for adult online predators who often pose as kids themselves.

One of the biggest mistakes children and teens with IM accounts make, according to the online safety group, is putting personal information, like the name of their school or their age, in those instant message profiles, which are visible to just about anyone online.

From there, the information in those profiles can be used to find out a whole lot more.

"In some cases it takes 20 minutes or so to actually come up with not just where the person lives, but specifically the telephone number, address and directions how to drive there," said Lt. Tony Martin, of Blue Ridge Thunder.

There are a number of things parents can do to help kids stay safe online. Blue Ridge Thunder recommends:

-Locate computers in a family area, not in a child's bedroom.

-Keep your passwords secure.

-Spend time with your children online.

-Technology is not a substitute for parental or teacher supervision.

-Do not permit children to give out personal information online.

-Do not post a personal profile online.

-Know to whom your kids are speaking.

-Encourage communication with your child.

More detailed tips and information can be found at

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