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Friday, June 28, 2013

Online Landmines - What Parents Can Do To Make It Safer

Parenting has never been easy. Every generation has “their thing,” but parents today are faced with challenges no generation has ever faced: raising children who have spent their entire lives immersed in the Internet and social media.

This is both a blessing and a curse for parents. On the one hand, online exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, and social media allows for family bonding from coast-to-coast among other joys. Then, on the other hand, children can just as easily be exposed to a world of dangers at the click of a button. And to complicate matters even more, now children of all ages have access to online content at home, on gaming systems or just about anywhere they can get a signal for their mobile device. 

Here we take a look at the threats and the safeguards that make a virtually impossible task manageable. The big bad Internet can be tamed, and your kids can be kept safe.

The Teenage Online Landmine

Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International 
Infograph Credit: &

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summertime: Taking Precaution & Still Having Fun

The school year is over, and more than two months of freedom are laid before our kids. Sure, summer means uninhibited fun and games, but children need to remember to stay safe this summer, too. Whether at the pool, in the sun or around town, there are a few tips every parent should know to help their children safely enjoy all of the pleasures of summer. 

Water Safety 

The best way to ensure your children’s safety around water is to make sure they are supervised at all times. Public pools and beaches have lifeguards on duty, provided they are open. Private pools, whether in your own or a neighbor’s backyard, will not. A parent or guardian should always be present when children are in the pool.

Read these tips to protect autistic wanderers

The Consumer Product Safety Commission found that at the time of a pool accident, typically at least one parent was home when it occurred. Simply having an adult in the house is not enough to prevent these types of accidents.

Investing in one or more safety barrier, such as pool fencing, a door alarm or a swimming pool cover, may provide additional security. Though these measures aren't foolproof, coupled with direct adult supervision, they'll make any pool area safer.

Sun & Outdoor Safety 

Protecting kids from the summer sun goes beyond wearing sunscreen. Children must keep hydrated, and they should know the signs of heat exhaustion, which can lead to heat stroke.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of heat stress include: 
  • Heavy sweating
  • Muscle cramps 
  • Dizziness or weakness 
  • Nausea 
  • Quick, weak pulse 
  • Fast, shallow breathing

The best way to avoid heat exhaustion is to stay hydrated and cool. Teach your children the importance of having a water bottle with them at all times throughout the day and taking frequent breaks in a cool or shady area during strenuous activities.

Poison ivy and insect bites could ruin a few summer days, too. If you live in a region where poison ivy or oak is a risk, teach your kids what it looks like, so they can avoid it. If insects are troublesome, have them wear any of the variety of store-bought or homemade insect repellents available.

Be aware of weather advisories, and bring your children inside for some indoor activities during the hottest time of the day, when the risk of heat exhaustion is the greatest. Offer them a break and a cold glass of water and may be take the time to make a fun activity out a "safety game." 

Public Safety 

Keeping your children safe in public places isn't always easy, but you may be able to rest easier if you know you’ve taught them how to respond in potentially dangerous interpersonal situations. One of the most important things children should know is their address and phone number. Teach them about calling 911 and when is an appropriate time to do so.

Also, work with them so they understand who it's OK to talk to. Even very young children should be able to understand the difference between a friend and a stranger, and that, if they feel threatened, that it is best to make a public scene instead of attempting to hide. 

Finally, parents should make sure that younger children are supervised when in public places, and that older children, while allowed a bit more freedom, should always use the buddy system when they’re out.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Defending Equality = Protecting Youth

Today is a step in the right direction in the fight for equality for all. Societies inability to accept all human beings as equals has far reaching affects that may not always seem so obvious at first glance. While  there are many factors for homeless teens (AKA missing teens), their are some direct correlations between societies acceptance and a child's future. Here are some realities these children face.

Did you know that:
  • Between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning (LGBTQ) and often times leave home for the simple, but sad and unfair fact that their sexuality is not accepted.
  • LGBTQ youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual practices. 
  • 58.7% of LGBTQ homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth.
  • LGBTQ youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth.
  • LGBTQ homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%).

Today's Supreme Court ruling wont change these numbers overnight, but to all the LGBTQ runaway and throwaway children on the streets, it may serve as a beacon of hope for a better tomorrow.

Child Quest International (CQI) works to find all missing children, and LGBTQ children deserve to be supported like any other missing child. Through advocacy, education, and support, CQI is working to connect homeless and runaway children with the resources they need to be successful in life. If you or someone you know is a missing (LGBTQ or not) child/teen looking for help, please contact us at We are not here to judge, we just want to help.

Statistics Provided by National Coalition for the Homeless
Written by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International
Art by Obey Giant

Thursday, June 20, 2013

5 Things Parents Should Know About Filtering & Monitoring Software

Parental control software is a valuable tool for controlling the amount of time your children spend on the computer and the programs they’re using as well as the sites they visit. For some parents, it may even be necessary to use these controls on mobile devices. Because as we all know, kids do not only access the internet via computer anymore. Today we take a look at five things you should know about filtering and monitoring software.
  1. Some parents want to block pornography, some want to monitor Facebook, and some want to track their child's every move with GPS-enabled smartphones. This article discusses the different ways parents are using software to keep an eye on their kids.
  2. The number of filtering and monitoring software programs available might make your head spin. Check out this search tool from GetNetWise to narrow down your options.
  3. Your child's smartphone is essentially a small computer. This article outlines the parental control options offered by major cell phone service providers.
  4. Although software can help keep an eye on your kids, technology can't solve every problem. Watch NetSmartz parents' presentation to learn about the issues and how to talk to your kids about their Internet use.
  5. Schools utilizing filtering software may think their work is done, but students can easily find online tutorials to get around them. Stay one step ahead with these tips to prevent students from bypassing your filters.

“We know that filtering software is just one instrument in our toolkit to protect students from harmful material online. Our annual Internet safety program educates students about safe and appropriate online behavior. Teachers also realize that 'the filter' is no substitute for proper supervision of students' in-school digital activities and that vendor-provided whitelists and blacklists are not set in stone. We frequently review and revise these lists to ensure students have access to valuable content online." -Ken Quisenberry, Director of Technology, South Bay Union School District (San Diego County, CA)

Source: NetSmartz
Infograph: Kaspersky Lab 
Written & Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

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Monday, June 17, 2013

FALSE REPORT: 10 Year-Old Girl Escapes Kidnapping

False reports of child abduction are becoming more and more common which is a very serious allegation and a disturbing trend (and in some cases a crime). Additionally, it is creating a very troubling dilemma for law enforcement and missing children agencies alike. Situations like this are the reason law enforcement can become hesitant when faced with similar reports, in what some citizens refer to as "they're not doing their job." Not the case. This is why there are strict protocols for AMBER Alerts and other investigative strategies. Due process is essential to a case. Policy and procedure must be followed to get to the bottom of these reports. Again, because of situations like this... Sad. While we are glad no child has been harmed in this hoax, we are extremely frustrated with the conclusion of this report. Updated 6/21/2013 @ 10:23 AM

FALSE REPORT. More Details Here

The young victim told police that while she was in the area of Beach Boulevard and Santa Rosa Avenue, a man approached her and told her she was coming with him, according to Pacifica Police Chief Jim Tasa.

When the girl refused, the man attempted to physically force her, but she punched him and was able to run away.

Police searched the area but did not capture the suspect, who was last seen on Santa Rosa Avenue, running toward Palmetto Avenue.

Police released a sketch of the suspect (pictured above) who was described as a white male adult, 30 to 40 years old, with brown hair. He was 6 feet tall with a stocky build and a tan complexion, wearing blue jeans, a red checkered shirt and black shoes.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect’s identification is asked to call the Pacifica Police Department at 650-738-7314. 

Written & Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International

Friday, June 14, 2013

Does 'The Bling Ring' Have Something To Teach Us About Online Security?

Just some more Hollywood sensationalism, or can we actually learn a thing or two from entertainment based in reality?

The Bling Ring*, premiering in theaters on June 21st, is based on the true story of an infamous group of teens who went on an unprecedented celebrity burglary spree. They stole valuable items like Rolex watches and one-of-a-kind designer dresses from the homes of celebrities including Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan and Rachel Bilson. The teens stole more than $2 million of jewelry from Paris Hilton alone. In total, the group stole more than $3 million in clothing and accessories. This fashionable, club-hopping crew, nicknamed the Bling Ring, planned their intrusions in part by using publicly accessible information they found on social media sites.

This certainly was not the first time criminals have used the wealth of personal information available on social networks to their advantage, and it definitely won’t be the last. Crimes committed with the help of social networking sites range from cyber-stalking to robbery. The good news is that there are a few simple precautions you can take to help prevent this from happening to you (even if you don’t have $2 million of jewelry lying around). Here are a few tips to help keep you and your family from becoming victims. 
  • Privacy is Good: Privacy settings are there for a reason. Thanks to privacy settings, you can make sure your status updates are only available to "friends" on Facebook and you can "lock" your tweets on Twitter. Help your kids navigate the privacy settings on different social media networks, as the policies vary from site to site. It is also important to remember that privacy settings often change, so you should periodically check to see that your posts are still secure. 
  • Do I Know You? Privacy settings are only useful if you also monitor who your online friends are. Remind your kids that they should not make their personal information available to strangers, and that they should only approve friends who they know and trust in real life. 
  • TMI (Too Much Information): The members of the Bling Ring used social media to check up on their victims’ schedules. When the celebrities posted about where they were going (and, most importantly, when they would be away from home) the teens knew which times were most opportune for burglarizing. Posting about your specific whereabouts on a social networking website is usually not a good idea. When you post a status that says "Going away to the beach for a week, " you have just provided a helpful hint to a potential burglar. 
  • Emotional Security:  Social media isn’t only used by criminals; it is also used by bullies as a way to easily harass victims. In fact, according to a study of more than 2,000 teenagers, 87 percent of teens who reported being bullied said they were targeted on Facebook.  Online bullying can be a serious problem for children and teens, and has even led to suicide in extreme cases. Talk to your children about bullying and remind them that they can come to you if they’ve been threatened through social media. Make sure your children know that online bullying is not harmless, and can have serious consequences; it can even be punishable by law.
Setting aside its entertainment value, The Bling Ring serves as a reminder for how social networking sites can be dangerous, and why users should be careful about what they post. When used carelessly, social media networks can quickly become goldmines for predators, criminals and dangerously fashionable teens everywhere.
*This movie is Rated R and is not suitable for young children. We advise parents watch the movie first, prior to teenage viewing. Rated R means no one under 17 is admitted without an adult guardian. 
Written by Brian Jones and Edited by Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International