By Estefania “Nia” Nunez-Brady
We’ve all heard the horrific stories about children being lured from their home at the hand of a stranger they met online. Most of us think, this would never happen in my town, or to my child. But the reality is it can happen to any child at any time from any home.
Thinking about this sends shivers up any parent’s spine. So how do we prevent the unthinkable from happening?
Keeping a child safe from harm is every good parent’s goal, but how can you keep them safe online? A survey from LeapFrog, a company that creates tablets for children, showed that over 50 percent of kids share personal information to strangers online, including name, number, address, school and other personal information. Risks will always exist when kids are surfing the web but Step Up For Students compiled five steps parents can take to help their children navigate the Internet in a safe and responsible way.
- Creating a safe environment for your children online, starts with turning on basic parental control settings on Internet-enabled devices and make sure the kids know what restrictions are in place.
- Monitor their activity as closely as possible; password-protect all of their devices and disable features that allow them to erase their browsing history, which allows you to check which sites they are visiting. And know all of their passwords, even for social media sites. And a good rule to implement is limiting computer access to only when a parent is home.
- Talk to your kids about the dangers and consequences of the information they share online, once the Internet gets a hold of anything, you can never get it back. Allow them to have an open communication with you regarding their activity, if they get in trouble every time they make a mistake, chances are they will start hiding things to keep them from getting in trouble.
- Use old school rules. Explain to your kids that “not talking to a stranger” also means online. For example, your child gets a Facebook request from a person they have never met, but they have common friends, the request should be denied because they don’t know the person. Additionally, give them the “grandma rule.” If their grandmother would be appalled to see a picture or a post, it probably should not go online. As the saying goes, the Internet is forever. Posts can follow your kids their whole lives and prevent them from getting certain jobs or getting into schools. Lastly, the “don’t take candy from strangers.” rule applies here, too. Online, this means avoiding the temptation of strangers who offer free iPads, free money, contests and other “too good to be true” items to get personal information from your kids.
- Google your child. Find out what the rest of the world can find out about them, show it to them and try to remove as much personal information from the web the best you can. Having personal information can open doors to steal his/her identity or to create fake profiles with their information.
The bottom line is it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Want to learn more? For more resources on Internet safety, check out these sites:
Sources: Kidsinthehouse.com; Leapfrog, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
Have you seen the scholarship in action, or do you have an idea for a story? Please contact Estefania “Nia” Nunez-Brady, marketing specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.