Whether your child is online for remote learning, doing homework, or using the internet for entertainment there are plenty of online dangers lurking. Technology has made it possible for child predators to gain easy access to children from blogs, video sites, social networking, and video games.
Statistically, 8 out of 10 kids ages 9 -12 say that parents/caregivers are the biggest source of influence when it comes to the decisions they make about how they behave online (source).
Parents, caregivers, and teachers can take the following steps to help protect children from becoming victims of online predators:
- Discuss proper internet safety and develop an online plan: Establish clear guidelines, teach children to spot red flags, and encourage children to have open communication with you.
- Supervise young children’s use of internet: Periodically check on their profiles and posts, keep electronic devises in the common areas of the home, and consider setting time limits for their use.
- Review games, apps, and social media sites: Before anything is downloaded double check apps. You can find tons of resources online for what your child should avoid, but predators often rely on end-to-end encryption, direct messaging, video chats, file uploads, and user anonymity.
- Adjust privacy settings and use parental controls
- Teach children to not share personal information, photos, and videos online with people they do not know in real life.
- Teach children body safety and boundaries: Take the lessons you have taught them about body safety in real life and apply them to online use. Tell them to say “no” to inappropriate requests and to tell you if they feel uncomfortable with an interaction online.
- Be alert to potential red flags: Changes in the children’s use of electronic devices, attempts to conceal online activity, or inappropriate behavior.
- Encourage children to have open communication with a trusted adult: Tell a parent/caregiver if anyone asks them to engage in sexual or other inappropriate activity
- Immediately report suspected online enticement or sexual exploitation of a child by calling 911, contacting the FBI at fbi.gov, or filing a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678 or report.cybertip.org.
The threat of online exploitation can seem overwhelming, but the simplest thing we can do to protect our children is to talk to them!