MURFREESBORO – “The internet can be a scary place for children to roam without adult supervision,” said Child Advocacy Center Community Education Coordinator Carrie Norvell. “It can feel difficult to protect children in a world that relies so heavily on technology, but it is important for us to educate and talk to our children so that they are safe from online predators on Safer Internet Day and every day.”
Talk about online safety with your children and teens. Make sure that kids know not to share any personal information on the internet; the less information they put out there, the better. They should never send personal information or images to strangers or even friends. Some teens believe that sending nude pictures over apps such as Snapchat is safe because the image disappears after a specified amount of time. But once they send an image like that, it can be screenshot or saved and sent to other people who they did not intend to see it. Online predators can use these same apps to lure children and teens into sending explicit images under the guise of making new friends online. According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “in 2022, more than 3,000 minor victims, primarily boys, were targeted with sextortion crimes.”
Checking security settings for apps is crucial for online safety. Familiarize yourself with the security features of popular social media platforms. Almost all apps can be used safely, but many people don’t know some security features need to be manually enabled. For example, Snapchat has a feature called SnapMaps. SnapMaps gives you the option to click on someone’s bitmoji and receive directions to their location. Using the default privacy and security settings, anyone can see your location, even a user who isn’t “friends” with you. That is why it is so important to make sure that the location permissions are turned off. The same can be true for Instagram’s “Stories” feature. You should make sure your kids have their profiles set to private so that only people they know can see their content.
Setting ground rules online is just as important as setting them in the real world. Actions and consequences might make sense to an adult, but children and teens don’t have as much experience to draw from. Explain to your kids that you don’t want them to accept friend requests from people they don’t know or post pictures of themselves with the location tagged. Crucially, explain why you’ve set these rules. A rebellious teenager might disregard your rules if they don’t realize how important online safety is. The most important thing is for you to let them know that they can come to you if they think they have made a mistake online. Be supportive and do not criticize. Help them with the situation and seek out appropriate assistance if needed.
For more information, or to schedule a free Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention training, contact Carrie Norvell at the Child Advocacy Center in Rutherford County at 615-867-9000 or email@example.com and Presley Hosford in Cannon County at 615-563-9915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.