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Sacramento Parent Magazine

Top 5 Web Sites to Block

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5 risky Internet sites you've probably never heard of (and your kids may be visiting right now).

courtesy of SafetyWeb.com

Some of today's most popular sites are also potentially dangerous for kids. Of course, as parents we all do our best to create an open dialogue with our kids about safety, including Internet safety, but as supervising kids' online activity becomes more and more challenging, you might consider blocking these sites, or at least adding them to your “watch" list: 

1.  Formspring
This is a social networking site in which users can anonymously post comments about other people. In essence, it is an open invitation for insults and gossip. Formspring is a breeding ground for cyberbullying and has been linked to a case on Long Island where 17-year-old Alexis Pilkington committed suicide. Due to the site’s anonymity, it can be particularly cruel and fall below parental radar.

2.  Chat Roulette
This is a social networking site in which users are randomly matched with strangers around the world to engage in Webcam-based conversations. According to a March 2010 survey conducted by RJMetrics, 13% of its users are either nude or appear to be engaging in a lewd act. Celebrities like Kelly Osbourne, Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton have all admitted publicly that they’ve tried the site. Parents should be aware of a similar, popular site called Omegle.

3.  Stickam
Stickam is a site that features live-streaming video, audio, images, and video chat. With over 4 million members and content from networks like MTV, G4 and CBS, the site seems to be reputable; however, kids can easily access inappropriate content, and sexual predators may abound. In October of 2009, The New York Times reported 3 predator arrests linked to the site.

4.  4chan
This digital bulletin board lets users anonymously post comments and share images. The site made headlines in 2008 when one of its members allegedly hacked into then-Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s email account. 4chan’s members also organized an “attack” against YouTube by posting hundreds of sexually explicit videos within a short period of time.  Along with teen gossip site StickyDrama, 4chan is also credited with the recent popularity of Jessi Slaughter, the 11-year-old girl who endured extreme forms of cyberbullying after posting a slew of emotional YouTube videos.

5.  Foursquare
This is a location-based game in which users identify where they’re located in return for virtual badges like “Mayor” and “Super Mayor.” Foursquare (and a similar site called Gowalla) are apps that are primarily accessed via cell phones. They can be addictive and dangerous, since your kids could be revealing their physical locations to strangers. If your child is on a family phone plan, you can set up restrictions to disable their cell phones from downloading any apps like this one.

SafetyWeb.com is an online resource that provides parents with real-time alerts about their children’s online activity.