- - Friday, February 5, 2016

Forget about “the sex talk” for a moment, just a moment. There’s another important talk.

For generations, “Don’t talk to strangers” was an unquestioned edict parents, teachers and police dished to kids. These days, it needs a slight modification: “Don’t talk to strangers online.”

The stabbing death of Nicole Lovell, the 13-year-old girl in Blacksburg, Virginia, is a stark reminder that we should monitor what our children are doing online before their relationships go offline.

And let’s be blunt: Adolescents and teenagers cannot sufficiently navigate relationships in person, let alone online. Consider, by way of example, the cyber-bully movement. Remember, too, cellphones may be smart; kids, sometimes not so much.

The FBI, believe it or not, offers “A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.” Our tax dollars paid for it, so utilize it.

Here’s what parents and grandparents need to know, and it’s from a Pew Research Center survey that came out last summer.

Instant messaging: 79 percent of all teens instant message their friends; 27 percent do so daily.
Social media: 72 percent of all teens spend time with friends via social media; 23 percent do so daily.
Email: 64 percent of all teens use email with friends; 6 percent do so daily.
Video chat: 59 percent of all teens video chat with their friends; 7 percent video chat with friends daily.
Video games: 52 percent of all teens spend time with friends playing video games; 13 percent play with friends daily.
Messaging apps: 42 percent of all teens spend time with friends on messaging apps such as Kik and WhatsApp; 14 percent do so every day.

Nicole fell into that latter group. Authorities say her suspected killer, 18-year-old David Eisenhauer, apparently developed an inappropriate relationship with Nicole via Kik, a smartphone messaging app. He drove to her home, watched her climb out of her bedroom window and together they drove to pick up his partner in crime, Natalie Keepers — a fellow schoolmate at Virginia Tech.

Mr. Eisenhauer initially denied ties to Nicole, until law enforcers smacked him in the face with the online and other evidence.

Children jabbering with classmates, neighbors and Sunday schoolmates is one thing. But please don’t expect them to know the true identity of anyone they meet online.

The David Eisenhauers and Natalie Keepers of the world can’t wait to get their evil paws on their next victim.

Kik is not at fault for Nicole’s death. Nicole’s parents aren’t at fault, either. Police have arrested the villains.

Remember Nicole, though, the next time you see your child engrossed in texting and ask yourself: Do I know where my child is online?

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