Still time to catch the early evening parade

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Keeping teenagers apart has been a lost cause since the days of Romeo and Juliet, but the discovery of a Kuwaiti runaway staying in a McCook home shows just how much the Internet has changed the equation.

Thankfully, the girl is on her way back to her parents, and the person she hopped a bus from Florida to see really was a fellow teenager and not a pedophile.

The fact that the girl was a Kuwaiti made the incident national news, but law enforcement at all levels spends more and more time dealing with runaways and Internet crime all the time.

We have sympathy for the adults involved in the incident, but know there are lessons to be learned as well. 

For one, it's a good reminder of the need to know what your children are doing at all times, and to do your best to keep the lines of communications open.

Let your teen know he or she can come to you if they encounter a problem online. It may be tempting to revoke his or her Internet privileges, but keeping a determined teen off the Internet, even with site blocking software, may make the World Wide Web all that much more attractive.

Make surfing the Internet a family experience, and keep computers out where everyone can see what's going on, not hidden away where teens can surf unmonitored.

Filtering sofware is not a substitute for good judgment or critical thinking. The best filter is the one that runs in teens' heads, not on the devices they use.

In the end, it's up to parents to be parents, ask questions and not hesitate to call other parents, adults or even the authorities if they have real concerns.

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