'Keeping them safe online'

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Karen is a mum of mixed sex, 15-year-old twins. And knows it. Each week she shares with us what her teenage two have been up to.

'When I think about all the things I have to consider when I'm worrying about my 2 kids being safe, I sometimes feel envious of my parents. When bringing up teenagers 30 years ago, you had none of the worries of them sharing too much information with strangers online. The main piece of sound advice you could give them was not to talk to strangers - which, quite frankly, rarely cropped up anyway.
The tragic story of the Canadian teenager Amanda Todd who committed suicide last week has brought to light a whole new set of dangers that the internet is posing our young people. In her case she was encouraged to flash her breasts to a supposed 'friend' she had met on an internet chat room. The friend was no such thing. Instead, he turned out to be a sick, predatory individual who circulated the images of her via the internet in such a callous and targeted way that he made her life a living hell. 
Although you may think that this is a sad, isolated case, stories like this are happening close to home and we, as parents, need to be having conversations with our children about these new dangers. I know of 2 families in our area who have moved away after images of their teenage daughters either naked or performing a sex act have been circulated around their schools. These images were sent to boyfriends who passed them onto friends. What is particularly worrying is the fact that these images have now almost certainly been circulated further afield. 
According to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), 88% of self-made sexual or suggestive images and videos posted by young people, often on social networking sites, are taken from their original online location and uploaded on to other pornographic websites. Teenagers need to understand that once an image has been taken and uploaded, the likelihood is that they will lose control of it and where it is published for good.
There are some brilliant websites designed with teens in mind which really spell out the dangers and offer real help and advice on what to do if they are worried about something and how to protect themselves from risk. They are also a good source of information for parents so do check them out. 
It's hard to know if you're getting through to your kids when trying to talk to them about serious issues like this - my 2 just visibly cringe or laugh off notions that it would happen to them, but I know even if they shrug it off, I feel better for trying - knowing I've done something to help keep them safe.'
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Do you worry about what your kids get up to online? Tell us in our comments section below or on Facebook.

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