MURFREESBORO – “We live in the age of technology, and our children are growing up in a world full of it,” stated Child Advocacy Center Community Education Coordinator Carrie Norvell. June is Internet Safety Month, and you can help protect children by educating them about safe online practices.
“Since 1998, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces have reviewed more than 1,452,040 reports of online child exploitation, resulting in the arrest of more than 123,790 suspects,” according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
We can reduce the number of children harmed by online predators through education. Parents and grandparents need to teach their children and teens how to stay safe online. When something gets posted on the internet, it is almost impossible to remove, and that is why teaching them to make smart decisions is important.
These are tips to help keep kids and teens safe online:
- Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.
Predators use social media platforms as a means of connecting with children online. They may message the child and get to know them based on the content the child posts. A child may begin to trust this person and feel like they have made a friend. The predator may ask the child to send them pictures or meet in person. Make sure your children know that they are only allowed to communicate with individuals they really know.
- Do not share personal information on the internet.
Social media is a great way for people to connect with friends, but it is also an easy way for predators to gather information about your child through the content they post. Often teens share their pictures with a location. This gives the predators the opportunity to track them. The best practice would be to not share location information. Your child needs to remove their birthday year from their profile because predators are targeting children. Predators may use information from posts that seem like a game. For example, “what would your Bridgerton name be?” The post may ask individuals to share their middle name, the street they grew up on, as well as other questions that are commonly used as security questions.
- Make sure your security settings are set to private.
Make sure your teens have their profiles set to private for all social media platforms including Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. This safety measure helps to keep our information private from people we do not know. When your account is set to private, only the bare minimum of information can be seen, such as a profile picture and your full name.
- Cyberbullying is never okay.
Children and teens need to be careful about the comments they make regarding other people’s content. Our words, even behind a screen, can have a negative impact on people. We need to teach our children and teens that cyberbullying is just as bad as bullying and that it will not be tolerated. On the other hand, if your child is the victim of cyberbullying, let them know that they can always come to us for help. We can reach out to the website where the comment was made and report the user. Blocking the user may be beneficial to your child’s health.
- Sexting can have consequences.
It is important for us to talk about the potential consequences of sexting. Sexting can lead to parties involved sharing nude images or videos of themselves through text messages, social media messages, or Snapchat. Your child cannot guarantee that the intended party is the only person that sees the content that they sent. That person may choose to screenshot or save the content and send it to others. According to missingkids.org, “Teens that sext may get in trouble at school, be bullied or harassed, or, in extreme cases, get in legal trouble. Additionally, those who engage in sexting may also become victims of sextortion. Sextortion is a type of blackmail used by offenders to acquire additional sexual content from the child, coerce them into engaging in sexual activity, or to obtain money from the child.” Make sure that your teens are aware that distributing images of another individual is illegal.
It is important for us to make sure our children know how to keep themselves safe online and encourage them to come to us if anything happens. Call local law enforcement to report an online predator. For more information about internet safety, visit https://www.missingkids.org/netsmartz/home or https://www.icactaskforce.org/internetsafety.