The Dangerous Mix of Social Networking and Children

Terry Easterling, Probation Officer
Terry Easterling, Probation Officer

Angelina Perez

Amarillo, TX - The universe of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter is expanding, there is now a social networking site, Kidswirl aimed at kids under the age of thirteen. 

Toby Clark, the creator of Kidswirl says although the site is for entertainment and networking, his main concern is safety. 

But, one local sex offender probation officer says safeguards are not always enough.

"Child safety is of up most importance on Kidswirl," said Clark.

Clark says they have many safeguards in place, including blocking the ability to post phone numbers or addresses.

"We think it's very important when it comes to protection of children in particular to make sure that there's no exchange of any numbers, as we know phone numbers and addresses become of the most dangerous things online," added Clark.

Terry Easterling, a sex offence probation officer says even with numbers being blocked, there is still a danger from kids being on these sites.

"You may not be able to give an address or a phone number but will they be allowed to, able to give what school they go to, what grade they're in," said Easterling.

Easterling says finding out what school a child goes to and knowing what they look like can be enough for a sex offender to gain access to a child.

Child predators can contact a child online but with the safeguards in place by Kidswirl, Clark says it will be less likely.

"There are possibilities for those child predators to approach our kids and we feel like whether it's a Disney site or whether it's our site, Kidswirl, it is very important that we are building sites to be as safe as possible, but also for parents to understand that no site is one hundred percent safe," said Clark. 

If an offender wants to meet a child that badly, they will find a way to work around safe guards, according to Easterling.

"I've dealt with hundreds and hundreds of sex offenders, and they're very ingenious, they're very clever, they're very industrious, and probably more so than the guardians of that website," added Easterling.

Easterling and Clark agree parent's need to monitor what their child is doing online to ensure complete safety. 

Easterling suggests having the computer in an open room, where you will see what your child is doing online. 

Clark says you should always have your child's passwords.