Video: Keeping kids safe
updated 5/25/2005 3:53:44 PM ET 2005-05-25T19:53:44

With Wednesday declared national missing children's day, MSNBC's Randy Meier welcomed Ernie Allen from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to MSNBC Live. The two discussed tips for keeping children safe online.

An excerpt:

Meier: Reports show that at least 20% of children receive at least some type of sexual solicitation or view some sort of pictures on the Internet.  How do those online sexual predators find out that it's the child using the Internet?

Allen: Unfortunately, it is not very difficult; children put descriptive information in their online profiles.  The predators go to where the child is. It is easy to find them and so it's really important that we empower our children and teach them how to use the Internet safely and responsibly.

Meier:  Tell us about this program that you along in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America have now put into play for parents and children.

Allen:  We have launched an effort called Net Smartz, with a 'z.' Boys and Girls Club was implementing text editors in all of their clubs and wanted to make sure their kids were safe when they went online.  So using animation and interactive games, we created this resource, which rolled out into all 3,700 Boys and Girls Clubs across the country by the Internet. 

Meier:  The website provides some safety tips to keep parents and children aware of what's out there and some very simple ones that we, as parents, should be taking advantage of, if we're not already.  Put the computer in an open area where you can view as well as anyone else what the children might be doing.  Set up computer rules for your children and use a filter.  But, I got to tell you, the biggest challenge is keeping children safe and if that is the case, I know with my own children it's tough.  They don't always come to you when they see something that's embarrassing or disturbing on the Internet.  How do you overcome that aspect of it?

Allen:  Communication, there is no question about it.  Kids are often afraid that if they tell you about the encounter online, you'll pull the plug.  You'll take it away from them.  So we as parents, need to set rules, we need to be involved in our kids lives.  We live in a time in which kids know much more about how to use the Internet than we do so you need to talk to you kids, get them to show you how to log on, know what their passwords are and set limits for how they use it so if they do encounter these situations you can talk about it and recognize the risks.

Meier:  Ernie, what do you do if something happens and clearly your child is being solicited in some form.  Do you call the police right away?  Do you keep this person online?  What do you do?

Allen:  You call the police and then you contact us at the National Center at  We are the 911 for the Internet as mandated by Congress.  We're taking leads from the Public everyday and we're handled more than 300,000 leads since 1998.  So Law Enforcement is better prepared and kids are safer today. 

© 2013 Reprints


Discussion comments