Friday, April 27, 2012

Eight Tips to Help Your Child Avoid Online Predators 

It is so important to educate our children about the dangers associated with the Internet, specifically, Online Predators; being knowledgeable about the tactics used by these predators, will go a long way to ensuring their personal safety.  Here are eight tips to keeping your child safe online:
  1.  Establish limits - Tell them which websites they are allowed to visit. If you don't want them visiting Social Networks, then explain this to them, alerting them to the dangers involved. Most teens love these Social Networks and that is usually one of the first things that a teen will do when they have access to a computer, but Social Networks are a major hunting ground for Internet Predators, and they need to understand that.
  2. Surf with your Child - Spend some time understanding the types of places that interests your child and see if you feel that it is safe for them. Do you know a safer site for them, suggest it.
  3. Show them how to keep their personal information private - Kids don't understand the dangers involved when they share their personal information and that is when we need to make sure that they are safeguarding all of their personal information. Real name, phone number, address, email, school information, and gender should not be identifiable. Internet Predators look for children of certain ages, gender, etc; therefore, they unknowingly make themselves targets.
  4. Know who is contacting your child - Who they are talking to online? Do they frequent social networking sites, forums, or play any type of online games? These are all places with chat capabilities and they may have come across a predator and are not even aware of it. Who is on their Buddy list? Ask them to show you. If you have ANY reason to believe that your child may be talking to people that they shouldn't, then please see the products listed in the "Internet Safety Products “section. There are products that can give you a snapshot of the pages your child is frequenting, passwords, keystrokes, chat logs, and you can restrict access to certain websites. They can give you peace of mind.
  5. Ask your child if they have been approached by anyone that made them feel uncomfortable - If there is someone that stands out in their mind, someone who was particularly disturbing, they may feel the need to tell you. I say that they "may" tell you, because your child may be embarrassed of the encounter, or feel that they are in some way responsible. Explain to them that although the Internet can be a great learning tool, it also has a downside; sick individuals whose sole purpose is to prey on the innocence of children.
  6. Alert them to the dangers of a face-to-face meeting with someone they have only met online - Thousands of kids have been kidnapped, sexually assaulted, or even murdered after meeting someone from a chat room. Our ultimate goal is to make sure that our children know the dangers associated with that. They need to understand that people are not always who they seem to be. That is how Internet Predators lure children, by pretending to be another teen, sharing in the same interests, pretending to be understanding to their problems, all the while, gaining their confidence, waiting until it is time to make their move.
  7. Report any sexual images and inappropriate contact - If your child has received sexual images, links to sexual web sites, disturbing emails, or any unwanted and dangerous contact, report them immediately to your local law enforcement, additionally, to the CyberTipline. Do not try to download or save the images, delete them, or move them, as it may destroy the evidence.
  8. Communicate with your child - This is the most important element to keeping your child safe online, and I cannot stress this enough. Make yourself approachable by being understanding, which will make it easier for your child to come to you when they need to. A child is never to blame when someone hurts or harasses them; the perpetrator is the only one at fault.
We are the only ones that can protect our children from the dangers that lurk online. If you keep an open line of communication with your children, then half the battle is won.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

What Your Teen Doesn't Want You to Know

 Secrets Revealed

I'm a little fired up this morning, which led to the writing of this post, and I'll tell you why. How many of you watch Dateline's To Catch a Predator series? If you haven't seen it and you have children, then catch the video entitled, "A Reality Check for Parents," located here - Dateline - A Reality Check for Parents

In an anonymous survey, Dateline asked teens between the ages of 14 and 18, questions about their online activity, and the results may terrify you. When asked about whether or not they have talked to a stranger online, only four percent of teens said that they did not chat with someone they did not know. That means that the majority of teens are putting themselves in extreme danger, regardless of the endless hours of lecturing that they are getting from us parents.

Fifty eight percent of teens said a stranger had asked to meet with them. At every minute of every day, predators are searching for a way into our children's lives, and chances are, our children have run across a predator at one time or another.

 Another twenty-nine percent of teens had a scary experience online. I don't even like to think about the different things that have happened to children that have upset and terrified them. We can only imagine, because our children don't always tell us about their experiences, for reasons only known to them. 

Almost half of the children surveyed, also admitted that they share too much of their personal information. The most important rule of Internet Safety is being broken by our teens! What can we do about that? We'll get back to that in a second.

The majority of teens say that they use the computer responsibly, while a high percentage observe other teens being irresponsible online. Ninety percent of those teens who think that they are being responsible online, have no idea what it really means to be responsible, or they wouldn't be chatting with strangers, which ninety six percent of them admitted to doing.

What can we do about this? Well, we all know that teens have admitted to doing things online that their parents wouldn't approve of, so one of the first things we can do is make sure that their bedroom door is open while they are online. If they complain, you can always take the door of the hinges.

If you haven't seen their online profiles lately, go and check them out. Make sure the photos are appropriate, and they are keeping certain information private. Do you know who is on their "friends" list? If not, ask them. If you see something on their online profiles that you don't like, ask them to change it. Don't worry about upsetting your children, we love them and that is why we do what we have to do.

I can't say this enough, and I will never stop saying this, you MUST talk with your children about Internet Safety. I don't care if they are tired of hearing the warnings, or if they roll their eyes at you for the ump-teenth time, you have to let them know that there are sexual predators out there, looking for their prey.

It is NEVER okay to meet someone that they have met online. There are just too many risks involved. Let them watch Dateline's To Catch a Predator series, so that they can see this for themselves. These predators have a single purpose, and that is to sexually assault your child, or worse. Don't let them be another statistic.

Please remember that simply talking with your child is the most effective way you have of keeping them safe. Listen and be understanding when they talk, so that they feel comfortable in talking about things that may be uncomfortable for them.

I'll talk to you again soon. Keep those kids safe!

Tina Mahan