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Internet safety kits educate parents, children about Web
By PHYLLIS ROYX The Reminder ENFIELD —
With children using computers at younger ages, and with the recent buzz surrounding the dangers of popular networking Web sites, David DiPiero of This is the Way Learning Center in Enfield has assembled Internet Safety Kits containing information to educate parents and children about safe practices on the World Wide Web. The kits are now available to the public, free of charge. The information in the kits has been compiled from Web sites such as www. NetSmartz.org. “NetSmartz is affiliated with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,” said DiPiero. Learning Center owner and director Charlene Kelly supports the project. DiPiero and Kelly are parents involved with childcare on a professional basis. They said that they are greatly disturbed by the ever-increasing prevalence of online predator incidents, especially because computers are one of the teaching tools used at the center. “Sixty-one percent of 13 to 17-year-olds have profiles on MySpace,” said DiPiero. “Kids are putting too much information in their online journals. Even their cell phones have Web access.” “They have their own online language,” said Kelly. She explained how many children substitute “u” for “you,” and may use other word/phrase shortcuts in their online communications. Abbreviated phrases bear a resemblance to codes or acronyms, and parents reading their child’s e-mail may not understand what is being said, Kelly said. A letter to parents from the learning center’s staff is included in the Internet Safety Kit to explain why the topic is being stressed. “Since Internet usage continues to grow, the best protection against online predators is knowledge,” the letter says. “Included in this kit is a set of ‘house rules’ you can establish regarding online usage in your household. Please take the time to sit down with your child and review the materials enclosed.” Cartoons and coloring pages for children have been added to the informational contents of the kit, which includes an Internet safety quiz and checklist, an explanation of Internet safety laws, and information about online tools developed to protect children. Also included are steps parents can take at home to limit and control online activity, cautionary advice on chat rooms, a “blog beware” section, a discussion of warning signs that a child may have become a victim, and a family contract to be signed by parents and their children outlining acceptable online behavior. “The parent/child contract stipulates that you agree your child can come to you without recourse,” DiPiero emphasized. This is the Way Learning Center opened in September 2005. Eighteen children are currently enrolled – four infants, five preschoolers, and nine children ages 6-12 who arrive after school. “We can accommodate more preschoolers now, and expect to have some after-school openings in September,” said Kelly. An open house at This is the Way Learning Center will be held on June 22 from 6-8 p.m., and again on June 24 from 10 a.m. - 12 noon. Internet Safety Kits will be available at that time. The kits can also be obtained during the learning center’s normal hours of operation, 6:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. More information is available at 860-253-0010 or by e-mail at TITWLearningCenter@Yahoo.com.