Talk to your kids about online safety at a young age.
We teach our children not to talk to strangers and not to tell anyone when they are home alone. Unfortunately, they do it all the time online. Just listen to Annie Munoz. Her 12-year-old daughter, Nancy, struck up what she thought was an innocent conversation with someone on a community-based website.
“The person told my daughter that she was also 12 and that she, too, played soccer on her school’s team,” Munoz said. “She considered her a friend and they chatted almost every day after school.”
Nancy never gave out her address. She did, however, share information about the name of her school and her soccer team, the position she played, the number on her jersey, and she often ended her online conversations with, “I have to go because it’s 6 and my parents will be home from work soon.”
This online connection was able to find out where Nancy lived and went to school, what team she played for, when games were held, and what position she played. This person also knew that Nancy was left alone every weekday until 6 p.m.
This person posing as a young girl was a man the same age as Nancy’s parents. He even went to a few soccer games and looked for the girl wearing a number 7 jersey. Nancy noticed someone new at her games, but didn’t think much about it. Her focus was on the game.
The last time she saw him was when he tried to follow her home. “Someone in our town saw him follow Nancy and confronted him,” Munoz said. “It turned out he was a pedophile who lived in the next town. The man confronting him was a teacher at the school where my daughter plays soccer. The police were called and his laptop was confiscated. They found discussions between my daughter and this man. All of the conversations seemed innocent. Since that time, we monitor our daughter’s online communication. We’re lucky our daughter is safe.”
Most children like Nancy don’t share information about their online interactions with their parents. They are also quite trusting.
Nancy’s parents got the local police to talk to students at their daughter’s school about online safety. Following are a few rules your child should follow:
Talk to your children about online safety at an early age
As soon as they start using the internet, teach them about staying safe. Don’t let them have a computer in their room. Don’t let young children browse without you. As a parent, you need to monitor who they are talking to and what sites they are visiting. As in Nancy’s case, people lie about their identities and can prey upon children.
Talk to them about not sharing their passwords — even with their friends — and ask them which sites they visit. You can also find online apps that will block certain sites that don’t seem safe to you.
Don’t share everything
It’s amazing what children — even your child — will share online. Teach them this line and have them repeat it back to you: “If you wouldn’t do it face-to-face, then don’t do it online.”
Young girls may let their boyfriends photograph them in compromising positions believing that those photos will stay private for eternity. Unfortunately, many of these photos have surfaced online with negative consequences for the victim.
You can’t delete it
Tell your child to be careful about what he posts because it cannot be erased. Like the compromising photographs, online comments can resurface years later to harm your children. Companies hiring often look online to see a person’s history.
Keep reminding them about the importance of staying safe online
Ask your children about the sites they are visiting. Talk to them often about not sharing personal information. Don’t let your children accept friend requests from people they don’t know. Ask them if anyone at school or anyone they know or don’t know has posted negative comments about them.
Ask to see your child’s mobile and other online devices
Yes, tweens and teens want privacy. You, however, want them to be safe. You don’t have to read every message; you should know their circle of friends and which sites they are visiting.
Make sure they understand the rules
The same rules that apply to strangers in person apply to strangers online. Nancy had no idea that by sharing the name of her school or her soccer team that she was giving out private information. Talk to your kids about what they can and cannot discuss online.
Talk to your kids about what they’re posting
It’s not being nosy. It’s about being concerned and about discussing issues that are important to your children. Ask them if they feel uncomfortable about anything they’ve seen or read online. Having an open relationship with your children allows you into their worlds and keeps them safe. It also gives them the opportunity to talk about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
If they are cyberbullied
If you know your child is being cyberbullied, don’t erase those posts. Contact the principal at your child’s school if these comments are coming from a classmate. Depending on how threatening these emails are, contact your local police department. This can be a serious issue that you should not take lightly.
January 03, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN