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Darien Forum Stresses Internet Safety for Kids

Trish Whitehead makes sure that when her kids are online, she knows what they're doing and who they are talking to. Even so, she joined other Darien parents at the middle school Thursday night to hear experts explain how to protect kids from cyber-bullying and online predators. The program was sponsored by Parent Awareness .

"Panels and discussions like this should be held with the children at least once a year," Whitehead said. She said that it is important to teach kids how to carry themselves online, and not talk to strangers. It's also important to keep them from posting pictures and messages that could have negative repercussions down the road. "What you do in one impulsive moment can carry on for years."

Mary Canaday agreed. "I tell my kids if they wouldn't want their grandparents, or their Dad, or me to see something, they shouldn't post it online," she said.

Darien police detective Mark Cappelli warned that when kids are online they are exposing themselves to a much larger world. "People move to Darien because of the schools and because it's safe. But when you go online, you're removing yourself from Darien."

Richard Colangelo, Senior Assistant State's Attorney, echoed that view. "The distance of the Internet, and kids' natural trust can lead them to forget that the people they meet are strangers," he said. He warned that most people who get caught abusing children that they meet on the Internet are usually white, educated men in committed relationships. He also said that 60 to 70 percent of all kids who have used the site Chatroulette can be exposed to explicit images.

Ed Moran, a clinical social worker with Family Centers , advocated setting rules. "Kids should be proven to be able to handle the responsibility of the Internet. And you should set guidelines and outline your expectations with them."

What concerns do you have about kids going on the Internet? Are you worried about predators, cyber-bullies, or kids posting negative images and messages? Join the conversation in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

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