Americas sex chatting online

The web, e-mail and chat are vastly different tools, used in vastly different ways, and presenting different risks and benefits.After all, we use radio waves to transmit BBC1 and Radio 4, for mobile phones and walkie-talkies and even for x-rays, and we do not expect one set of rules to apply to them all.

One feature which appeals to her greatly is that she can have a private conversation with her school mates even if I'm sitting in the same room, something that she can't do on her phone. She has let me set up her chat service so that only people on her contact list can see she is online or send her messages, and I get to look through her contact list to check that they are all friends I know. In many ways this would be worse than the present situation, where we can at least ask kids to be vigilant about everyone they meet online. Doing this would at least reduce the number of kids exposed to the danger, and it would not deprive of them of any useful or valuable experience.

The only answer is to keep kids out of these spaces - to make them adult-only and require age verification by those hosting them. Looking after our kids means setting limits on their behaviour to keep them safe.

She would not have had any contact with her 31-year old ex-Marine if it had not been for the easy access to e-mail and chat that today's children seem to demand as a right, and we should not pretend otherwise or blame inadequate supervision.

New understanding Certainly, parents need to be aware of what their children are doing online, but none of us is perfect and always alert to danger.

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We can restrict their access, or install safety software, but our kids also need space to grow up, privacy from even their parents, and a sense that they are trusted.

Monitoring every e-mail, sitting in on every chat and checking web access logs is not the way, certainly for the over-10s.

The experiences of Shevaun and other children like her have only confirmed my view that kids do not need to use chat rooms to talk to strangers.

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