Internet Predators: How to Keep Our Children Safe Online
Teaching our kids about personal safety has always been something that was automatic for us. If our kids were going somewhere, we knew exactly where they were going, had the address and phone number, and we even checked up on them to make sure that they were where they were supposed to be. We taught them about the dangers of going anywhere alone and what can happen to them if, for one moment, they let their guard down.
Among the many responsibilities that we have, we can now add another; our kids internet safety. Did you know that thousands of kids are kidnapped, sexually assaulted, or killed every year after meeting someone in a chat room? Internet predators are relentless in their efforts to lure our children away from the safety of our homes. We have to make sure that our children know the strategies that these predators use, which can give them a better chance of recognizing a potential threat.
Our children should understand that “Internet Privacy” does not exist. Every picture we post online, and every piece of personal information that we make available, can be accessed, and if a sexual predator is intent on making contact with them they will go to extreme lengths to do so. We have to limit what is accessible, and in order to do that, our kids need a good understanding of what should and should not be shared. Let’s start with user names.
A user name should not include their real name, any nicknames used, their age or sex. A sexual predator often looks for a child of a certain age or sex and an identifiable user name can make them a target.
Sharing photos is extremely popular among kids but they need to be limited to what type they post online, so check their photos to make sure they are appropriate. If we think that they are “too cute,” then the wrong people may also. Photos need not include any school names or emblems. This information makes it too easy for your child to be searched and a predator can use that school information to pretend to be a friend of theirs which can result in a child accepting a friend request from them.
Any personal information such as email addresses, real name, age, passwords, physicaladdress or school information should always be kept private. Let your kids know that any personal information listed online gives pedophiles a way to contact them, and with certain information they can find out everything they need to know about them which could turn into an extremely dangerous situation.
Meeting anyone that they have met on the Internet is something that should be avoided. Kids need to know that pedophiles will pretend to be what they are not in order to interact with them. If your child is insistent on meeting with someone, then it needs to be a supervised meeting in a public place, after you have had a chance to see if they are who they claim to be. If there are any objections to calling and talking to their parents, that is a sign that something is not right with the situation. Predators want that contact and will coach our children in what to tell us if questioned. We have to be smarter than they are, so if you can’t verify who they are, then do not take them and explain to your child that you are doing what it takes to protect them because you love them.
We need toknow what our children are doing online. Set boundaries for their Internet usage and let them know that they may be monitored. Browse their online profiles to make sure that they are being responsible in what they are posting. What they might consider to be harmless information may be more than enough to endanger them.
Keeping a line of communication open with our children is one of the most effective ways to keep them safe. We have to make sure that they can talk to us about anything, and we need to make sure that we truly listen.