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Willmar police officer talks about Internet, summer safety

WILLMAR -- One in five teens will receive some sort of inappropriate content online this year.

It's parents' job to teach their children how to handle such encounters with strangers on the Internet, Willmar Police Officer Marilee Dorn said Friday.

Dorn spoke at the Child Guide Community Connections gathering at Kennedy Elementary School.

Summer presents a variety of safety challenges for parents and their children, Dorn said.

She talk-ed about physical sa-fety as well as Internet use. Parents should re-mind young people that the rules about strangers in real life also apply to strangers online, she said.

"Never send anything online or on the phone that you would not want the whole world to know," she said. It can help for them to remember that their grandparents could see what they post, too, she added.

Parents should supervise their children online, she said, and computers should be in common areas of the house and never in a child's bedroom.

Parents should be able to check their kids' social networking sites and e-mail, too, as a way of protecting their safety, Dorn said.

It's also a good idea to remind young people that the people they meet online could be lying.

If a young person wants to meet an online friend in person, parents should be aware of that and should supervise the meeting, Dorn said.

A good idea would be to talk with the person using Skype, a Web-based video phone service, before meeting them in person, she said.

Dorn often referred to the need for children to be supervised by a competent adult, whether swimming, playing in the summer heat or using the Internet.

She defined a competent adult as someone who is actively supervising and not drinking, reading a book or listening to music.

Drowning and asphyxiation have surpassed motor vehicles as the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 2-5, Dorn said.

Small children should always wear personal flotation devices near the water, as well as being supervised by adults, she said.

For example, it's easy for a child fishing from a dock to get excited and fall in.

Dorn warned about the connection between sugary, caffeinated beverages and dehydration.

Dehydration and heat stroke can strike quickly on a hot day, she said, and water is the best thing to drink, while energy drinks are never recommended for young children.

Families need to have emergency plans for fire or severe storms and remind children of the plans monthly, Dorn said. Even younger teens benefit from monthly repetition, she added.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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