A significant development in the online-safety field: Parents in the US now have a toll-free number to call with questions about topics such as social networking, cellphone texting, and virtual worlds. The bilingual hotline (English and Spanish) is sponsored by the Qwest Foundation and operated by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and is available to "paren. The free service started in February 2007 as a Web site – www.netsmartz411.org – where "parents, guardians, children, teens, educators and law enforcement" could type questions into a form and hear back from NCMEC experts within one business day or search a database of online-safety info. The new toll-free hotline number is 1.888.NETS411 (1.888.638.7411). Here's the press release. Two other new resources are a video, with "common sense tips and rules for families" and companion print and Web materials, a joint project of CommonSenseMedia.org and YouTube.com, and SocialNetworkingSafety.com from Bebo.com, a San Francisco-based social-networking site that's particularly popular in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Here's Bebo on safety at social-networking sites in The Guardian .
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