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How To Protect Teens Online

Two recent murder cases that shocked the communities where they happened should also raise concerns of parents nationwide who may not be sure what their teens are doing online. 18-year-old David Ludwig is accused of killing the parents of his girlfriend, Kara Borden.

Both teens posted personal information and communicated through popular online blogs.

Authorities also believe that 17-year-old Virginia college student Taylor Behl was murdered by a man that she met on the Internet.

So what can you do to make sure your computer savvy kids are not putting themselves at risk?

"Parents, be a parent," says Kevin Leman on The Early Show. The family psychologist is also the author of the book "Running the Rapids."

"The word parent comes from the word parentus, which means protector," he says. "There are people in life that will … kill you. So, parents, step up to the plate and get in your kid's lives."

With instant messaging, text messaging, blogs and chat rooms, he says it is easy for parents to get overwhelmed. But, he says, "I think the best idea is to always make sure you've got an open relationship with your kids. Make sure that the computer, for example, is in a neutral site in the family. Talk to your kids about posting personal information. Kids are naïve, and, to be real frank about it, they're dumb as mud sometimes."

Mena Trott from livejournal.com, a Web site where millions of teens post online diaries, agrees.

"My father encouraged me to go online and find things interesting to me," she says. "It's a good place to be when you know what you're doing. I agree that parents should be very involved, and I think that just listening to their kids is an important thing."
The stats are overwhelming. Sixty percent of kids with online access have created online content. And of those 70 percent are teenage girls. So should parents be reading their kids' online journals?

"They shouldn't be," says Leman, "but if you stumble upon it, maybe you've been snooping and you saw something in there that was potentially injurious to your child or somebody else. Tell the kid, 'Hey, I'm sorry, I ran across this, but this is something we have to deal with.' Kids today need vitamin N from their parents, which is 'no.' There are such things as healthy limits. And kids just can't do everything they want to do."

He also says girls, by nature, are very relational. "It's the nature of a young woman to want to talk and share," he says. "One of the things that I think is important is around the dinner table, you know, when you see your kid looking a little down say, 'Honey, you seem down. Looks like you had a rough day.' Don't ask kids questions. The new research says that kids, given a choice of who they want to hang out with, guess who they want to hang out with? Their mom and their dad."

Trott's advice is to ask the kids to let them be one of the people allowed limited access to their site. "Let them write to you in their space," she says. "Users of Livejournal can choose who they want to read their postings. I think it's more than just policing their kids."

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