Nick US explores the perils of living in an online world

MUMBAI: 25 million American kids have been -- or are -- online. The number is big but even more startling is that, according to recent data gathered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 71 per cent of teens online have received personal messages from someone they don't know, 45 per cent have been asked for personal information from a stranger; 34 per cent have had unwanted or unsolicited exposure to inappropriate images; 20 per cent have received a sexual solicitation over the Internet, 30 per cent have considered meeting in person someone they met online, while 14 per cent have actually done so.

Approximately one million kids have received an aggressive sexual solicitation: someone asking to meet in person, calling on the telephone or sending snail mail, money or gifts. Yet fewer than one in five kids who have experienced any of the above, have told a parent or guardian.

Now US broadcaster Nickelodeon has announced that on 10 December its show Nick News with Linda Ellerbee explores the problem and looks at solutions in Online and In Danger? How to Protect Yourself in the Virtual World. Kids and experts such as The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children president and CEO Ernie Allen, and WiredSafety founder Parry Aftab weigh in on social networking sites, and the ways predators try to get at kids.

Cyber cops explain what they do, what 'grooming' is, and how online predators are groomed themselves. The show visits with The TeenAngels, 13-18 year-old volunteers trained in online privacy and security. They visit schools, and run a website, spreading the word -- from kids to kids --about how to live, learn, and play safely online.

Ellerbee says, "For a lot of kids, the virtual world is their playground, recreation center, arcade, and mall. Going online isn't something they do, it's somewhere they are. The goal of this show is not to scare kids offline or encourage parents to unplug computers, but to help kids better understand and use this evolving technology, and show them ways to
protect themselves in the process."

Around 65 per cent of all teens have visited some kind of social networking site such as MySpace, Facebook or Xanga, according to a poll. In the special kids explain why they go on these sites, what types of information they're posting, and other ways they use the Internet. They also tell stories of close encounters or actual experiences with online abuse.

Nick News is celebrating its 15th year. It claims to be the longest-running kids' news show in television history, and has built its reputation on the respectful and direct way it speaks to kids about the important issues of the day. Last year it won the Emmy for Outstanding Children's Programming for its show.

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