February 20, 2008 | Click here to send an email.
Braving the Online World

It’s no secret that today’s teenagers are more technologically wired than ever before. If you are a parent of a teen, you have likely noticed their fascinating ability to “text” friends at startling speeds, watched them spend hours on the computer at a time with multiple Instant Messenger boxes up on the screen as they participate in five online conversations at once, and you might have even had arguments with your teen about their constant technology use. But for better or for worse, today’s technology is here to stay.

The old phrase “It’s 10 p.m. – do you know where your children are?” has taken on a new meaning – do you know where your children are online? With instant messaging, social networking sites, e-mail, and blogs, today’s parents have quickly been forced to hone new skills that our parents never even had to consider. This new skill of virtual parenting can be difficult, especially when 64% of online teens and 66% of parents agree that teens know more about the Internet than their parents do. Consider the following statistics released by the Pew Internet and American Life Project:

87 percent, or about 21 million, of teens age 12 - 17 go online.
75 percent of online teens use Instant Messenger (IM). In comparison, 44 percent of online adults have used IM.
60 percent of online teens have gotten an email or IM from a total stranger and 63 percent of these say they have responded to such contacts.
48 percent of teens say their use of the Internet improves their relationship with friends.
55 percent of parents believe it is essential for today’s children to learn how to use the Internet in order to be successful.

As parents in an increasingly wired society, our challenge is finding the appropriate balance between protecting our teens online, while still allowing them the opportunity to participate in these new forms of social activities and utilize the unique educational resources available on the Internet. Finding this balance takes a different form when it involves teens rather than when it involves younger children. In an effort to help parents manage their teens online activity, organizations like the National Cyber Security Alliance, OnGuardOnline, Netsmartz, and federal agencies like the Federal Trade Commission regularly make recommendations for parents who want to learn more about their teens’ online lives. The following tips are general recommendations that are found on these organization’s websites:

Be reasonable and set reasonable expectations. The Internet is a large part of teens' social culture, and it is important to understand their needs and interests while at the same time setting boundaries. Setting reasonable expectations, like placing the computer in a high-traffic family area, or setting time limits on Internet use, allow teens to explore the web within certain limits.

Learn as much as you can about the Internet. The more informed you are, the better you will be at virtual parenting. Ask your teens to show you some of the sites they browse. Read about MySpace, Facebook, and IM so that you are familiar with some of the terminology used on the sites. Essentially, your goal should be to learn your teen’s virtual language, which will enable you to be a better enforcer of your boundaries and will likely keep you more at ease with your teen’s Internet life.

Use filtering programs to block objectionable sites. Research the various filtering software available to parents and find a program that has a level of filtering that works best for your family. Some software use filters based on the type of site category or by a site-rating. Other software allows you to manually choose particular sites in which you want to block access. Do not, however, use filtering sites to take the place of your role in monitoring your teen’s Internet use.

Monitor your teen’s online activity. Let them know that you will periodically sit down with them and check their blogs or their social networking pages. Knowing that they have someone watching will increase your teen’s accountability. It also creates a sense of right and wrong – if they know you are checking their page tomorrow afternoon and they have to remove photos or information that you wouldn’t approve of, they will begin to build awareness of what is and isn’t appropriate to put online.

Encourage your teen to come to you if they experience a problem or questionable issue on the Internet. When they come to you about an issue or problem, use good judgment in whether your first response should be to blame or punish them. Teens need to know that their parents are their closest allies, and your immediate response when they approach you with a problem will determine whether they confide in you on similar issues in the future.

Keep the lines of communication open. Talk with your teen about the Internet. Emphasize the importance of protecting their privacy and the dangers they could face online. Using terminology that teens understand and examples that involve programs they use, like Facebook and MySpace, will give you a greater chance of holding your teen’s attention.

For additional resources and online safety tips for teens, use the following helpful websites:

Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens by the Federal Trade Commission






IRS Scam Alert

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a warning informing taxpayers of several e-mail and phone scams surrounding the economic stimulus bill from the federal government that will provide rebates to some citizens. Scammers are using the IRS name to gain personal and financial information, such as Social Security numbers and bank account and credit card information from unsuspecting individuals for the use of committing identity theft, including running up charges on the victim’s credit cards, applying for loans or credit cards, or filing false tax returns.

Victims of identity theft can spend months or years attempting to fix the damage that these scammers have caused. It is important to remain alert to these scams and become aware of the warning signs in order to prevent possible identity theft. The IRS has identified the following rebate scams:

Rebate Phone Call

In the Rebate Phone Call, consumers receive a phone call from someone who identifies himself as an IRS employee and tells the consumer that he or she is eligible for a sizable rebate for filing his taxes early. The supposed IRS employee informs the consumer that the caller will need their bank account information in order to make a direct deposit for the rebate, which he says is the only way to receive the rebate.

Refund E-mail

In the Refund E-mail, scammers create an e-mail falsely claiming to come from the IRS informing the recipient that he or she is eligible for a tax refund. The scammers then tell the victim to click on a link in the e-mail to access a refund claim form, which asks the victim to enter personal information in which the scammers then use to access the victim’s bank or credit card information.

How to Tell if it’s a Scam

The IRS never forces taxpayers to use direct deposit; taxpayers who decide to use direct deposit do so by completing the appropriate section on their tax returns, submitting their bank routing and account information once they file.

The IRS never sends unsolicited e-mail, mail, or phone calls about tax account matters to individuals, businesses, tax-exempt or other taxpayers.

 Filing a tax return is the only way to apply for a tax refund; there is no separate application or form for them to fill out.


▪  The IRS has not yet begun distributing the stimulus checks; they are not expected to begin distributing until late May.

 No one should be asking for personal or financial information for these rebates.

To Report a Scam:

 Forward questionable email to phishing@irs.gov
 Email questionable phone call information to phishing@irs.gov
 Follow instructions contained in "How to Protect Yourself from Suspicious E-Mails or Phishing Schemes."

To find out if you are due a refund from your last annual tax return filing:
 Visit the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov

 Access "Where's My Refund?"



Organize Your Health Care: Download the Health Benefits Toolkit



Being organized with your health benefits information will help you in the event of an emergency. Use this guide to organize your information on premium payments, policy numbers, and more, or forward it to a loved one.

Click here to go.



Watch Congressman Forbes Discuss Putting Patients First in the Stem Cell Debate



Click the link below to watch Congressman Forbes discuss the stem cell research debate and ways that he is working to put patients first in this episode of Washington Review.

Click here to watch.



Find Out What Happened Today in History



The Library of Congress maintains a "What Happened In History" webpage. Bookmark this webpage to keep up with past historic events.

Click here to find out.


Other News

Feb 13, 2008 Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) Opening Statement for Hearing on Department of Defense Security Clearance Process

Feb 13, 2008 Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) Joins Community College Caucus

Feb 11, 2008 Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04) Statement on Department of Justice Arrests Made in Chinese Spy Sweep 


Congressman Forbes meets with members of the simulation training industry at an interactive event on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Forbes meets with the Admiral Dennis C. Blair of the National Bureau of Asian Research.
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