Parents struggle to stay ahead of children's access to the internet
As technology becomes an everyday part of children's lives, so do the dangers that come with constant internet access.
It presents a challenge for parents trying to protect their kids online.
Therapists in the La Crosse area say the problem of kids getting into bad sites on the internet is a growing problem.
With internet access available through smartphones, iPads and computers kids have many opportunities to access the internet without their parents knowing.
While it's a new aspect of parenting for some, experts say there are strategies parents can use to protect their children.
The internet is challenging new territory for many parents like Holmen mom Jill Vena-Markgren to navigate.
"The internet does scare me as a parent. Especially when I know my child has to explore it maybe for school and sites that maybe I'm not familiar with," said Vena-Markgren.
Experts say as kids access to the internet grows, so does the amount of problems that come with it.
"More clinically I have been talking with parents who are really struggling with their kids' behaviors with being very obsessive and compulsive about accessing material on the net," said Nicole Milliren, clinical therapist with La Crosse County Human Services.
"The cell phones we carry, the iPods, iPads, those things are all internet accessible these days. They're carrying them around. They're fitting into our pocket and there's always that chance that there are predators where those children are going," said Linnea Miller, detective sergeant with the La Crosse Police Department.
Another risk is what sites children might access by accident.
"Kids are accessing information and the levels of information and the depth of information that is way beyond their years, even for a teenager. It just is a lot for them to sit with, to understand, to process through. They're not going to say to their parents, 'I just accessed this porn site.'"
While a lot can go on out of parents' sight, experts say there are steps they can take to protect their children.
"There's different programs and software you can buy too that will help filter and show the parent what's happening with the use of the computers. There's a lot of things you can do but you need to be willing to reach out," said Miller.
Vena-Markgren says her best strategy is simply taking the time to be open with her daughter.
"The best thing is to be a role model. Sit down with your child. Go through a website thoroughly. Whether it's educational, go through the advertisements that are popping up and say this is appropriate this is not appropriate," said Vena-Markgren.
Experts also suggest keeping your computer in a high traffic area of the house.
They say it's not a good idea to let your children have their technology in their rooms where you can't keep an eye on what sites they are accessing.
La Crosse Police Officers encourage parents to contact them if they are ever concerned about the interaction their children are having with people online.
They say it's always better to be pro-active when it comes to their child's safety online.
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