From sexual predators to the Internet " keeping your kids safe | VailDaily.com
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From sexual predators to the Internet " keeping your kids safe

Dr. Drew Werner
Vail CO, Colorado

Protecting what we value most. As you may have read, Eagle County may soon be home to a newly released SVP or Sexually Violent Predator. At first I thought what has our world come to, and why would such a person want to live here in our safe community? Then I woke up, smelled the coffee and pulled my head out of the sand. What perfect timing for the question posed.

Dear Doc,

I recently turned off my Internet because I am not sure I can trust my middle schooler, or his friends on the computer. I still need to get on the web. What can I do?



Keeping my home safe in Eagle

Dear Safe,



Like you, I love this wonderful community because it is just that. I know my neighbors, and their neighbors. I am friends with more people here than I can count and am blessed by each of them. Without a doubt they have taken care of me and I can only hope in some small way I have done the same for them. It is that community that makes each of our personal worlds a better and safer place. At the same time, as our worlds inevitably grow, so do the risks we take.

Travel across the country is almost as easy as driving down the street. Sometimes it seems international travel is even easier. Influenza, West Nile virus and tuberculosis can be as frequent visitors as skiers, hunters and family visiting for the holidays. The world is becoming a smaller place. My father-in-law is proud to have been an integral part of Bell Labs and the Telstar project. On the landmark day of July 10, 1962 the Telstar satellite was launched. That same day, the first intercontinental television broadcast occurred. He was just beginning to realize how things were to change.

Like combating illness, a good defense is our best offense and prevention is the best policy. While accidents, drugs, smoking and alcohol are serious threats to all our children, one threat may go all too unrecognized: the Internet. The risk of a Sexually Violent Predator living in our community comes not from him being here, but from each of us not knowing who and where he is. The equally serious question are: do you know what Web sites your children or their friends have been to? Who have they been chatting with, and what content have they downloaded?



While most computers come with software to make the Internet a safer place, the truth remains that pornography, sexual predation and identity theft are some of the biggest “businesses” that can invade our computers. Like the old TV public service announcements asking “It is 10 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” we should be every bit as aware of where are children are on the Internet.

Fortunately, there are some fairly easy and safe things you can do to protect your children from the dangers of the Internet while allowing then to discover all the benefits it can offer. First and foremost, keep your computers in public places in your home. Just as you would not let your children leave the house with a stranger, it is fair to know where they are traveling on the net. Most Internet service providers offer firewalls to prevent uninvited “guests” from getting access to your private information.

Common sense says to keep them turned on. Internet browsing software offers similar safeguards, and using them is a smart thing, too. However, our kids are smarter than we are most of the time when it comes to getting around those fairly simple safeguards. That is where some special software comes in to the rescue.

The piece of software I am most familiar with is Net Nanny (www.netnanny.com). While I have no financial interest in this great software, I can endorse it confidently. Once installed on a computer, each user is assigned a password. When logged in to the computer, you can control the Internet access of every user. This can be done by limiting the total Internet time each day, when it can be accessed and which Web sites are permitted. Equally important, Net Nanny can block objectionable words that appear in chat rooms, instant messaging or in Web sites. It is simple to set up and even the basic settings will keep your computer much safer for your children. As the administrator, you can easily view when your children have used the Internet and where they have been.

Rather than spy on them however, let them know this software is used to keep them safe. Open communication is essential whether it comes to talking about the dangers of the Internet, or how to remain safe as new residents enter our community. For more information on SVPs in our valley visit http://www.eaglecounty.us.

Let me know what’s on your mind at cschnell@vaildaily.com. Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset and it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.


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