Q: With all of these new social networking websites I am worried about the safety of my kids. I am specifically worried about who they are meeting on the Internet and what they are being exposed to. What can we do as parents to protect our children?

A: We now live in a generation of great technological advances. I can recall being 8 years old and not knowing or thinking about owning a cell phone or browsing the Internet. Now any 8 year old you encounter cannot imagine a life without these emerging technologies. Our children literally have the world at their fingertips. However, with the introduction of this amazing electronic resource comes responsibility, not just from our children, but from us as parents, teachers, mentors, and guardians.

There are many social networking sites available and free of charge to anyone that can access the Internet. A couple of clicks of the mouse and you are the newest member of a social site that can connect you to people from around the world in a split second.

It can be a frightening experience for a parent not knowing who your kids are communicating with and what they are being exposed to. Here are some tips on how to enhance your Internet security at home and how to monitor your children’s Internet activity.

• Access the parental controls for your family computer and adjust the setting according to your desired security preference.

• Clear, simple, easy-to-read house rules should be posted on or near the monitor. Create your own computer rules. The rules can be signed by adults and children and should be periodically reviewed.

• Look into safeguarding programs or options your online service provider might offer. These may include monitoring or filtering capabilities.

• Web sites for children are not permitted to request personal information without a parent’s permission. Talk to children about what personal information is and why you should never give it to people online.

• If children use chat or e-mail, talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they “meet” online.

• Talk to children about not responding to offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat, or other communications. Report any such communication to local law enforcement. Do not delete the offensive or dangerous e-mail; turn off the monitor, and contact local law enforcement.

• Keep the computer in the family room or another open area of your home.

• Let children show you what they can do online, and visit their favorite sites.

• Have children use child-friendly search engines when completing homework.

• Know who children are exchanging e-mails with, and only let them use chat areas when you can supervise.

• Be aware of any other computers your child may be using and if their cell phones have Internet capabilities.

• Internet accounts should be in the parent’s name with parents having the primary screen name, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering devices.

• Talk to children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it’s not their fault if they see something upsetting. Remind children to tell a trusted adult if they see something that bothers them online.

• Consider using filtering or monitoring software for your computer. Filtering products that use white listing, which only allows a child access to a pre-approved list of sites, are recommended for children in this age group.

• If you suspect online “stalking” or sexual exploitation of a child, report it to your local law-enforcement agency. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has a system for identifying online predators and child pornographers and contributing to law-enforcement investigations.

Q: How do I become a Santa Monica Police Officer?

A: The department hosts several recruiting events throughout the year to provide interested candidates with more information and an opportunity to meet and speak with some of our officers. Testing dates are also scheduled throughout the year for those candidates who fulfill all requirements of the initial application review.

There are five basic steps that one must successfully pass for consideration to become a police officer in Santa Monica. They are:

•Written examination

The written P.O.S.T. examination will test applicants’ skills in vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, and also tests the applicant’s general knowledge and may have some reference to law enforcement principles. Test examples may be found on the P.O.S.T. website under “Selection & Recruitment.”

•Application review

All applicants are required to complete a city application. When submitting your application, you must provide clear, concise, and complete information regarding your qualifications for the position.

• Physical fitness qualifier

This examination consists of four timed-exercises that are designed to measure strength and endurance. The exam includes pull-ups, sit-ups, push-ups and a 1.5-mile run.

• Psychological and medical exam

Applicants will be evaluated for their suitability for employment as Santa Monica police officers. All applicants must also successfully complete a city medical examination, including a drug screening, to determine if they meet the city’s medical standards for the position of police officer.

• Background investigation

Applicants who have successfully completed all prior phases of the selection process are required to undergo a thorough background investigation. The investigation is used to determine an applicant’s moral character and suitability for employment in law enforcement. The investigation shall include, but is not limited to, the following reviews: criminal record, polygraph examination, driving record, credit history, military record, current and previous employment history and references.

You can obtain information on future testing dates and hiring information from our department website santamonicapd.org under “Employment” or by contacting the Recruitment Unit.

To contact the Recruitment Unit, e-mail or call:

Officer Kim Sloane at (310) 458-2203 or Kim.sloane@smgov.net.

This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Francisco Franco, Beat 8 (Pico Neighborhood). He can be reached at (424) 200-0688 or via e-mail at francisco.franco@smgov.net.