‘America’s Most Wanted’ host John Walsh talks Internet safety with teens and parents in Del Mar
By Kristina Houck
San Diego teen Steven Liu jumped off the bridge in front of Otay Ranch High School in Chula Vista on Nov. 1.
Friends said the 17-year-old was a victim of bullying. Some school officials said they don’t think bullying was the reason he committed suicide.
Bullying and cyberbullying has become a hot topic, and was one of many issues “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh discussed during a “Girls World Expo” seminar Nov. 3 at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“I’m urging you to sit down and talk to your kids about bullying and make them feel comfortable that they should do something before they get into the period of where they want to hurt themselves or hurt somebody else,” Walsh said to the room full of parents with their daughters.
From cyberbullying to sexting, Walsh discussed Internet safety during the seminar, which was sponsored by Cox Communications. He also asked a panel of four high school students questions about their Internet use.
Internet use is doubling every two years. The average household has six devices connected to the Internet, according to a survey conducted by Cox and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Walsh encouraged parents to talk to their children about Internet safety, discussing what they do online and what they shouldn’t do.
He explained that conversations about Internet safety are more common today. In 2005, 1 in 4 teens said their parents talked to them about staying safe online. Today, 85 percent of teens said their parents talk to them about online safety, according to the survey.
Still, according to the survey, 34 percent of tweens have lied to their parents about what they’ve done online.
“We’re not trying to ruin your lives,” Walsh said. “We’re not trying to make sure that you never meet a boy or go out anywhere or do anything adventurous. We just want to make sure you’re safe.”
Formerly a hotel builder, Walsh became an advocate for victims of violent crimes and the host of “America’s Most Wanted” after his 6-year-old son, Adam, was abducted and murdered in 1981. The television program ran for 25 years, and helped capture more than 1,200 fugitives and locate more than 50 missing children, including Elizabeth Smart.
“It changed our lives forever, but all the things that we’ve been able to accomplish and change and try to do as we fought back was because people like you cared,” Walsh said. “I want to thank you for all the support for all these years. I said it every week on ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ you can make a difference. And so many of you have helped me make a difference.”
Walsh continues to make a difference by being the spokesperson for Cox’s, “Take Charge!” Launched eight years ago, the initiative aims to teach parents and children about Internet safety.
“I have three kids — I had four kids,” Walsh said. “I know you’re all immortal. I know you’re all bulletproof. I know you never make mistakes. I know you don’t think you’re going to die. That’s why we, as parents, have to saddle up and say, ‘Look, here’s where the dangers are.’”
For more information about Take Charge!, visit www.cox.com/takecharge.