Technology & Internet Safety
The Internet is a huge information source and a valuable tool for adults and children, but because of its anonymous nature it creates opportunities for predators.
- 71% of teen ages 13-17 reported receiving messages online from someone they didn’t know.
- 40% reported that they usually reply and chat with that person
- 30% of teens have considered meeting someone that they have chatted with
- 14% have actually had such an encounter
Predators search for potential victims usually in chat rooms, but a child might catch the attention of a predator from information they provided on their blog or social network profile (i.e. Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, etc…) Interaction usually begins in chat rooms and within 45 minutes a predator can usually find out the child’s full name, address, school, and what activities they participate in. Predators look for clues about the child: what they like to do, how old they are, and other important characteristics/interests. Much of this information is often revealed by the child’s user name or given willingly by the child.
Once the predator befriends the child, they often ask the child if they can include them on the child’s buddy or friends lists. This way the predator can tell each time the child is online with no effort on their part. The anonymous factor allows predators to become a “friend.” Over time, the predator can develop a relationship with the child and build their trust. Often times a predator will ask the child to keep their relationship a secret. At some point the predator will then try to move the relationship to the next phase with the ultimate goal being physical interaction — frequently for a sexual encounter. The consequences of face-to-face meeting can be deadly.
Signs that your child might be a victim:
- Withdrawn from family
- Spending more and more time online
- Turns off the screen when you walk in the room
- Pornography on the computer
- Unknown mail/packages from unknown senders
If you think your child is engaging in dangerous activity:
- Check the computer’s Internet history to see websites that were recently visited
- Search your child’s name frequently on search engines
- Check your child’s friends list for unknown people
If you suspect your child is being contacted by a cyber-predator or has received a sexual solicitation online, immediately contact your local police department, the CyberTip Line at 1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com (CyberTip Line is in association with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children).
If you suspect a face-to-face meeting has been arranged, contact your local law enforcement immediately. Also, archive and print all interactions between the predator and your child.
What you I do to keep my kids safe while ONLINE?
Talk with your children to let them know of the dangers while being online — not everyone has good intentions.
- Keep the line of communication open and convey to them that you are there to help
- Let them know that on the Internet people can pretend to be anyone
- Know usernames and passwords to all of the websites your children register with
- Let them know not to give out any personal information, under any circumstances
- Establish rules about the Internet early-on
- Let them know what you expect from them and what unacceptable behavior is — CLICK HERE to download the MASK Safe Home Pledge
- Keep computers in a common area of your home
- Setup and keep user profiles — new versions of Windows/Apple software allows for multiple user profiles with limited access
- Use web browser controls in conjunction with user profiles to fine tune the level of access
- Use software to help protect your child’s security and privacy
Above all, embrace the technology that your children use and not run away from it. Knowledge is the most powerful tool that you have as a parent and if you’re behind on the evolution of technology, you’re that much more behind on keeping your child safe. The best thing you can do as a parent is to be aware of all of these dangers and to educate yourself and children — to help bring you up on technology, Microsoft and Apple stores often have training sessions available.
Software can help with:
- Block chat rooms/instant messaging
- Block downloads
- Allow only approved email addresses
- Filter websites
- Record instant messages or chat room conversations
- Notify you when your child tries to access inappropriate sites
- Often run without your child knowing
- Some software can take screenshots of your child’s activity