Workshop warns parents of online dangers

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(Host) Unhealthy messages about sex are pervasive on the Internet and child health experts say it’s more important than ever that parents talk to kids about these messages.

Katharine Heintz-Knowles is an analyst and researcher who specializes in the impact of the media on children and families. She says it’s easy for young people to be exposed to inappropriate content through unsolicited emails or at Web sites:

(Heintz-Knowles) “Pornographic Web sites make up about 12 percent of the total Web sites, so it’s a big proportion. A lot of those are very explicit graphically, the language used is very demeaning. So messages about sex and sexuality do not include message of responsibility. They do not include messages in relation to health or relationships.”

(Host) Heintz-Knowles says parents should take an active interest in their child’s online activity and talk to them about sexual content on the Web. She says parents should also discuss issues like online privacy and danger of Internet predators.

She says the Internet isn’t the only source of overtly sexual content. Music videos, prime time television and advertising all contain messages parents should be aware of.

(Heintz-Knowles) “As a parent, you give your child some context for interpreting all that. Because if you don’t the media and their friends become their primary sex educators. And that’s when you might run into difficulties with your child later when they decide that they’re ready to get into a relationship. If you haven’t stepped in until that point, you’ve got a whole lot of backtracking to do.”

(Host) Heintz-Knowles will be taking part in a free program for parents on the impact of the Internet on teen sexuality Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at the Wyndham Hotel in Burlington.

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