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Part I: Protecting in cyberspace

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The New Year is upon us and a lot of kids are home and online. Like we protect our kids outside we must also protect them in cyberspace.
Here are some tips to share with teens:

1. Remember - A million times before you've heard that honesty is the best policy. Most people don't believe that, though. So when you're out there in cyberspace, watch yourself. You never know when 5'6", blond and female could actually mean 6'3", hairy and male. Don't believe everything you see online.

2. Be leery of those who want to know too much. There's no rule that says you have to tell them where you live, what your last name is, or anything else personal. Your business is your business. Let them stick to theirs. And trust your instincts. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, leave.

3. We all remember the "buddy system" from kindergarten. Sure, you're no longer in kindergarten, but the system still works. If you're planning on meeting up with somebody you met online, bring a friend, or even your parents, along with you and encourage your online acquaintance to bring theirs, too. It sounds stupid, but it's definitely the smart idea. At the very least, make sure your real friends know what you're doing.

4. Before you take a running leap at the streets and a hard-knock life, let somebody know how you're feeling. Try talking to an understanding relative or friend, or call the National Runaway Switchboard at 1-800-621-4000. They are a better, more trustworthy resource than a stranger in a chat room.

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