I read a statistic recently that reported that 72% of American were connected to or had access to the Internet. This surprised me. I assumed the number was high, but I did not think it was 72%. The Internet has been a wonderful tool. The word Google has become a verb for me. Now when I am talking with friends and hear or learn about a topic, or if I read about a new topic, I can go Google it. Recently I Googled the “loop” of water that is responsible for the size of hurricanes. In the past I used the Internet to study the history of the conflict between the Arab and Jewish races. Another time I read about periods in history, Bible History, and to obtain information on legal topics. I suppose I have to also admit that I use the Internet to help me help my son do his homework. Yes, homework. When Cole brings home topics I cannot remember from my school days (oh so long ago), I sit down with Cole and we Google the topics. I cannot tell you how helpful it has been with math. I know math better now than I did in school! I just hope Cole does too.

The Internet is great, but it can also be harmful because it gives children access to topics that they should not see. I am a strong believer in the First Amendment Freedom of Speech and expression. This valuable and sacred Constitutional right is one of the many things that has made our country strong and provided freedom that is unknown in many other countries. I would have strong objections against most forms of censorship. Of course there are some forms that must be prohibited, like child pornography. While many people may disagree with me on this issues, I have not been in favor of adult censorship because it is too easy to bleed over into art and other expression issues. But, we must protect our children.

The best protection for children begins at home. Parents can buy or in some instances obtain filters that will prevent kids from going on web sites that parents find objectionable. Filters come with many of the programs you buy, and if the parents are not familiar with the filters they should seek help from someone knowledgeable in computers. Here is a list of things parents can do with their children:

1. Learn how the computer works and how to navigate the Internet.
2. Place the computer in a room where the parent can observe it easily.
3. Learn to monitor your child’s e mail. (This may change as the child matures).
4. Explain to kids that there are sites that should not be visited.
5. Advise kids to notify parents if any stranger contacts them by e mail.
6. Learn about teenage sites like My Space, Facebook, ect.
7. Regularly discuss with your child what he/she child is doing on the Internet.

I am certainly not implying that parents should “spy” on their children. I am saying that as parents, we have to keep our eyes and ears open to protect our children. If kids inadvertently get on bad sites, they could cause serious legal problems to themselves or their parents. In every state child pornography is illegal. It is also a Federal crime, and it should be! There are also sites that have very graphic visual pictures of autopsies and other photos that could seriously disturb a small child.

The Internet may be the best informational tool of my life time. It has revolutionized how we seek and obtain information. It is even having a profound impact on politics. But like all good things, there is a risk of abuse. Be smart, informed, and vigilant. Enjoy the benefits of the Internet but observe what your children are doing when they use the Internet.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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