Education key to protecting children from onilne woes

Published 8:12 am Saturday, January 13, 2018

It is more important than ever to protect children and teens from the dangers lurking online.

The Internet is an incredible tool that opened our eyes, minds and hearts to a world beyond ourselves. The web and social media have provided opportunities for modern-day humans like none before. Social media especially creates a platform to communicate with loved ones, connect with new and old friends, confer with like-minded people about important topics, conduct business and learn about the lives of others far outside our community.

With all those benefits and more, there are obvious concerns, especially for young children and teenagers, who might be vulnerable to attacks from less than well-meaning adults.

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According to the FBI, there are hundreds of complaints each year about children who have been victims of criminal incidents on social networks.

Some of the most obvious concerns from the FBI’s perspective are adults posing as children who are about the same age as the victim who later travel to abuse the child; and adults posing as children who convince the child to expose themselves and/or perform sexual acts over webcam and later extort the child to perform additional acts.

According to an Internet safety pamphlet recently published by NCMEC, a survey of 12- to 17-year-olds revealed 38 percent had posted self-created content such as photos, videos, artwork or stories. Another survey of 10- to 17-year-olds revealed 46 percent admit to having given out their personal information to someone they did not know. The likelihood that children and teens will give out personal information over the Internet increases with age, with 56 percent of 16 to 17-year-olds most likely sharing personal information.

Just this week we have reported on two cases involving alleged online misconduct by adults toward children. While all parties in these cases are innocent until proven guilty, these and other local cases serve as stark reminders the Internet is not the safe place many young people might believe it to be.

The FBI offers these tips to parents to protect against online predators:

— Monitor your children’s use of the Internet; keep your Internet computer in an open, common room of the house.

— Check your child’s profiles and what they post online.

— Report inappropriate activity to the website or law enforcement immediately.

— Only allow your kids to post photos or any type of personally identifying information on websites with your knowledge and consent.

— Instruct children to use privacy settings to restrict access to profiles so only the individuals on their contact lists are able to view their profiles.

— Remind children to only add people they know in real life to their contact lists.

— Ask about the people they are communicating with online.

— Make it a rule to never give out personal information or meet anyone in person without your prior knowledge and consent.

— Educate yourself on the websites, software, and apps that your child uses.

— Don’t forget cell phones! They often have almost all the functionality of a computer.