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103 Pct. gives parents tips for Internet safety

During the precinct's community council meeting last week, Officer Dion Harris of the NYPD's Youth Services Section, gave a special presentation to parents about ways they can safely surf cyberspace. Although he said computer skills and knowledge may not come easy to older surfers, Harris said learning how to use computers can be simple."Your child will be able to teach you a lot about the Internet," he said. "If you can't understand the text they're typing... you have to break it down with them."Harris said one of the largest growing problems involved how much information children and teens give on their profiles on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. The officer warned parents that information, such as phone numbers, birthdays and addresses, are exactly what predators and criminals are looking for."If a stranger approaches a child on a street and tries to strike up a conversation, they'd probably say 'No,' but on the Internet they're more likely to chat with them," he said.Harris urged parents not to allow their children to sign up with those sites if they are under 13. For parents of older children, the officer said they should pay close attention to their children's Web profile and talk with them about what things they put on it.He also informed parents how to use standard features on their personal computers to not only block inappropriate material and programs, but also track their child's activity. Harris told parents to go to their administrative options on their computer's settings and change the options to give them total control of the computer."You can have many names on the computer, but the one that matters most is the administrator," he said. "You can control what the other names can do on the computer."The officer admitted that all of these safety tips do not guarantee that Web surfers will be 100 percent safe, however. But if parents stayed on top of the Internet's development with their children, then children would be fine."This technology is going to take us someplace else, but these predators aren't going away," he said.Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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