Beneby case highlights online dangers

DELRAY BEACH, FL (WFLX) The Jade Beneby case reminds parents how social media can allow a teenager to enter potential danger zones online - without their parents seeing the warning signs.  A group of Delray Beach parents was already scheduled to attend a seminar about online dangers.  But the recent case, however, stresses the notion that every parent can know more.

Barbara Ferguson was taking notes on her iPad Thursday evening, about better protecting her sons from online predators.  

"It's scary to me," she said.  "He's a fourth grade little boy and very innocent." 

Ferguson was among a handful of Unity Middle School parents listening a bit more closely after Delray Beach police said Jade Beneby, 17, met a man online, then in person and then lied about their rendezvous.  It was a web of deceit that investigators said began on the web.

"Being of a generation that we didn't have all of this, we don't even know what to look for," said Ferguson.

"She didn't know.  She's 17," said Sally Berenzweig of KidSafe Foundation, who was conducting the online safety seminar.  "Here I am talking to middle school parents. We have to start at age four when the children are actually learning and getting on the internet."  

Berenzweig is teaching parents like Ferguson about the impact they must have on their kids' online habits as well as about keeping computers out of a child's bedroom.  She stresses that what teens do online must not be off-limits to their parents.  

"If their child is on Facebook, they need to be on Facebook," said Berenzweig. "They need to be part of their child's online world the same way they are part of their child's real life world."

Berenzweig said it is imperative to open the lines of communication with children, to learn as much as possible about what kids are doing online.  The parents of Jade Beneby have said this week, that their daughter's online dealings were a surprise to them.