Investigators in the Brooke Bennett case say posts on the social networking site MySpace may have played a part in her disappearance. While summer campers at Burlington's Boys and Girls Club log on for fun and games, Bennett's disappearance has Kaitlyn Callahan looking at the computer in a whole new way. She says, "It shocked a lot of people."
Callahan is the same age as Bennett, and like the missing girl, has used social networking sites including MySpace. But her mom just pulled the plug. Callahan explains, "She hasn't let me on since the Amber Alert."
The Boys & Girls Club actually blocks MySpace for young users. High schoolers can log on, but only with a staff member monitoring their online behavior. They also go home with advice on safe computer use.
The Club's teen director LeVar Barrino says, "We always make sure they ask their parents' permission before getting on the internet. Anytime there isn't an adult around, they shouldn't be online at any time."
The Club coaches kids on the basics:
Not to give out personal info like full names or addresses.
To report shady activity to an adult.
And to never consider someone they meet online a true friend.
A national study showed 1 in 7 kids have been solicited for sex online, and even more were exposed to inappropriate pictures. Kaitlyn Callahan says, "Actually, my mom and I have talked about that. She told me if I ever get approached or asked what my real name is, I should just automatically log off."
Clear communication like that between parents and kids could keep more from getting swept up in an online net of danger.
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