In April 2015, the Pew Research Center published a study saying that 92 percent of teens report going online daily—including 24 percent who say they go online “almost constantly.” According to the study, nearly three-fourths of teens have or use a smartphone.
AND THAT WAS IN 2015
The Internet and its influence over our children has only continued to grow.
Considering the many dangers that are on the Internet— from predators to cyberbullies, malicious software and scams, it is crucial that our children learn their way around this connected world early in life.
Using the Internet can be a fun and rewarding experience for kids. But, when they are unsupervised, it can also become a dangerous space. From cyberbullying to downloading inappropriate content, online access comes with risks.
Spectrum News 1 Wants to Keep You In the Know
We’ve compiled some helpful information that will keep you in the know about the risks, warning signs and ways you can become involved in the monitoring of your child’s online activities.
Know the Top Internet Dangers
Harassing, threatening, embarrassing, or targeting another person through electronic means
The user’s location can be found from any device connected to the Internet
- Inappropriate Content
Material that is disturbing, improper and not normal for children to see, such as pornography or violent images
Using the smartphone or internet to send, receive, or forward sexually explicit photos
- Viruses & Malware
Harmful programs that can be transmitted to computers and other connected devices
- Online Enticement
An individual communicates on the Internet with someone believed to be a child, with the intent to commit a sexual offense
Know the Warning Signs
It’s important to be able to recognize changes in your child’s behavior that can indicate cyber trouble.
- Avoids the Internet
- Is visibly stressed when receiving an email
- Withdraws from family and friends
- Shows reluctance in going to school or attending social events
- Shows signs of depression or fear
- Demonstrates weaker Declining grades
- Stops eating or sleeping
- Considers suicide
- Stays online for long hours, especially at night
- Receives phone calls from people you don’t know
- Receives unsolicited gifts in the mail
- Turns off the computer abruptly when you walk into the room
- Withdraws from activities with the family and avoids discussion about online activities
Know the Do's and Don’ts on Getting Involved in Kids’ Online Activities
It is important to provide guidelines for your kids that teach them safe online use. Taking an active role in your child’s internet activities ensures they will benefit from them without being exposed to the dangers.
- Do tell them to follow the family rules, as well as rules set by the Internet service provide
- Do warn them that they should never post or trade personal pictures
- Do explain to them the importance of never revealing personal information
- Do remind them not to share password
- Do tell them they should never agree to meet in person with anyone they met online without parent approval and/or supervision
- Do reinforce to them that they should never respond to a threatening email, message, post or text
- Do advise them to tell a parent or other trusted adult about any scary or hurtful communication or conversation
- Don’t assume your kids know about potential dangers they could face
- Don’t ignore the red flags
- Don’t handle dangerous situations alone. Contact the police if your child is being enticed, blackmailed or harassed
- Don’t forget to talk to school officials so they can help stop harassment or any other online issue that may be happening
- Don’t take away their internet access because they may have made a mistake. Instead, let it be a teaching moment about protecting themselves and respecting others
- Don’t think this can’t happen to your child
Know Basic Guidelines for Parental Supervision
- Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior
- Keep the computer in a common area, as opposed to individual rooms
- Monitor the time they spend on smartphones and other devices
- Bookmark your child’s favorite sites
- Check your credit card and phone bills for unusual charges
- Find out what online protection is offered by your child’s school, friends’ homes, or any place where kids could use a computer without your supervision
- Take your kids seriously if they tell you about an uncomfortable online exchange
Know How to Talk with Teens
It could get challenging to monitor the online activities of teens since they often enjoy the privacy that cell phones and the internet affords them. It is important to keep the line of communication with your teen open so they will turn to you when online issues arise, and knowing how to talk to them can help protect them.
- Ask questions so they know you’re comfortable discussing it
- Talk about what characterizes healthy relationships and the importance of trust
- Remind them how fast images can spread online and that once it’s out, they can’t take it back
- Discuss the sites and apps they use
- Talk about the dangers of interacting with strangers online
- Remind your child that they should never share passwords
Knowing How to Protect Your Child from Violent Extremism
According to the FBI, a growing number of youngsters are mobilizing to support violent causes, often leading to their injury or death.
The FBI suggest taking these steps to prevent this from happening to your child:
- Thoroughly review the FBI’s website to learn more about how violent extremism is targeting our nation’s youth
- Discuss with teens the dangers and pitfalls of violent extremist ideologies
- Ensure a trusted adult is available to discuss the materials with them while they use the program or after they have completed it
- Teach teens positive and productive ways to resolve differences
- Keep the lines of communication open
- Learn when to report concerns regarding violent extremism to authorities
A Word About Sextortion
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited children there is a form of online enticement referred to as “sextortion,” that occurs across all online platforms. It involves a child being “groomed” to take sexually explicit photos and/or eventually meet with someone in person for sexual purposes, or to engage in an online sexual conversation online. It can also involve selling/trading the child’s sexual images.
Knowing About Online Protection Tools
Online protection tools let you control your child’s access to inappropriate material and protect them from internet predators. Several internet service providers offer parent-control options. Software that helps block access to sites and prevents personal information from being sent online is also available, as well as programs that monitor and track online activity.
Knowing Where to Find Important Information Online
Some sites contain additional information on speaking to your children about a variety of subjects, including abduction, dealing with strangers and personal safety.
If you are aware of the sending, use, or viewing of child pornography online, call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.
If your child has received child pornography from the Internet, contact your local law enforcement agency or the FBI.
*Information for this article was sourced from the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.