Internet Safety

  • Make friends in real-life before accepting them as friends online.  If you stop being friends or dating, stop being their Facebook friend as well.
  • Keep all your passwords secret.  Never share them with a boyfriend or girlfriend, especially in a teen relationship.
  • Never send or forward nude or sexually suggestive pictures of yourself or anyone else via text or online.  Not only is it unsafe, but it’s illegal.
  • Don’t post your whereabouts online.
  • If someone is harassing you online, report it.  Also, save all inappropriate or harassing messages and show them to parents, school officials, or law enforcement if necessary.
  • Contact law enforcement if you or someone you know is being threatened with physical violence via text or online.

 

What is Social Networking?

Websites that enable their subscribers to post information about themselves, a journal and various forms of media content (pictures, videos), to generate and maintain relationships with other participants, and to engage in discussions around common interests with others.  Popular networks in theUSare MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, Twitter, Flickr, Craigslist and Youtube.  But even on web-based email providers, there are chat options.

 

Risks

  • Negative Use: Subscribers may use these networks as a place to make threatening or harassing remarks about a fellow classmate, or to quickly spread a rumor.
  • Objectionable Content: Users may post material that is not appropriate for children, or that parents would find objectionable.  This can include obscene language, racist or violent text or images, and a wide range of sexual content, including text, images, pictures and pornography.  Parents should also be concerned about what their teens may post.  Teens can make unwise decisions (due to self esteem, peer pressure, relationship pressure, etc.) such as posting pictures of themselves in a sexually provocative or incriminating manner, publishing personal information or bragging about exploits.
  • Contact with Predators: Sexual predators, mainly adults, can look for minors to exploit while frequenting online communities that children and teens use.  Sometimes these adults will pretend to be teens themselves, or offer gifts and vacations to children that are willing to chat with them.
  • Contact with Inappropriate Adults and Businesses: Various segments of the sex industry (legal and otherwise) have a presence on social networking sites, often to recruit customers and workers.  Minors should not have direct contact with such sex professionals and organizations, but it does happen.  In rare cases, teens could become victims of sex-trafficking or be persuaded to provide sexually explicit pictures or videos for pay.
  • Time: Summer months are the riskiest because many kids spend great amounts of time home alone.  However, anytime of day or year when a child spends a good amount of time unsupervised on the internet allows for greater risk.  For example, routinely every night, for long hours, around the same time.

 

Statistics and Stories

  • More than 1/3 of children and teens have been victims of cyberbullying, perpetrated cyberbullying or know friends who have experienced or perpetrated it.  About 81% think that bullying online is easier to get away with or to hide from their parents than bullying in person. (Harris Interactive, 2010)
  • 91% of teens (13-18) have an email address, 60% have an instant messenger screen name, 73% have a cell phone and 59% have a digital camera. 72% of teens have online profiles on social networking sites.  Although most teens surveyed are aware and concerned about the risks of putting personal information online, 62% have posted photos of themselves and greater than 40% name their school or the city/town they live in. (Harris Interactive, 2010)
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually on the internet.
  • Self reports from some middle school girls in our Youth Empowerment Groups:

– The majority of their “friends” on MySpace and Facebook are people they have never met.  They are “friends” of friends, or even total strangers.

– The majority of these strangers who are their “friends” are male.

– Many of their “friends” are from out of town.

– Feelings of their interactions with these “friends” are that it is harmless, they are funny, “he understands me” and “he wants to help me”.

– They report their parent(s) have no idea what they do on the internet because they access these sites at friends’ houses, libraries, through cell phones and at relative’s houses.

  • Phoebe Prince, a 15 year old girl fromMassachusetts, hanged herself on January 14, 2010 in her home.  She was teased, harassed and threatened for 3 months by text and predominantly on Facebook by classmates for dating an older football player.
  • A 6th grade girl in one of our Youth Empowerment Groups reported that she met a guy on MySpace, where she says she’s 18, and he said he was 20.  She agreed to meet him in person, and when she arrived he was a 40 year old man and he propositioned her for sex.  She refused.
  • A local 7th grade girl met a 20 year oldReno man on Facebook.  Although she knew he was 20, she had lied about her age (saying she was older) on the website where they met. She began talking to him online, then on the phone, and this progressed to meeting in person and beginning a sexually intimate relationship.  They continued to date, although he knew at this point she was only 13.  Her mom found out and pleaded with her daughter to stop seeing him because it was inappropriate, but she refused and threatened to run away.  Even after getting counseling for her daughter and pressing a slew of charges against the man, the girl still insists she loves him and that her mother is ruining her life.  The case has not yet been closed.

 

Warning Signs

  • If your child turns the computer monitor off, or quickly changes or minimizes the screen when you come into the room.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn or secretive around the family.
  • You find pornography on your child’s computer.
  • Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.

 

Parent Tips

  • Talk to your child!  Discuss important topics like healthy relationships, bullying, sexual victimization and potential online dangers.
  • Use teachable moments to start a conversation.  Current events, movies, tv shows, popular music and real-life situations can all serve as ways to start a discussion.  Search Youtube for PSA’s (public service announcements) on relevant topics.
  • Don’t worry about not being an expert.  If you’re not sure how to answer a question, offer to work with him/her to find the answer.
  • Be honest and don’t lecture.
  • Lead by example and be a positive role model.  Model good communication and relationships.
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.
  • Spend time with your children online.  Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations.
  • Find out about what limits you can place on your child’s cell phone, as more and more kids are accessing the internet this way.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.  Although parents should use these tools, they should not solely rely on them.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child’s school, public library and the home’s of your child’s friends.  These are all places, outside your normal supervision, that your child may be accessing the internet.
  • Work with your children to set up privacy settings on all sites that offer it.
  • Create off limit sites.
  • Require your children to periodically show you their online accounts.
  • Create accounts, or use existing accounts, on sites your children are on, and require that they “friend” you so you can monitor their information.
  • Know your children’s passwords, screen names and account information.
  • Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.

 

Instruct Your Children

  • To tell you right away if they read or see anything on the internet that makes them uncomfortable.
  • To never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online.
  • To never respond to someone who has made them feel uncomfortable or scared.
  • To never post pictures of themselves to people they do not personally know.
  • To never give out identifying information, such as their name, address, school name or telephone number.
  • To change their password regularly, and not share it with anyone but you.
  • To never download a picture from an unknown source.
  • To never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, mean, obscene or threatening.
  • To remember that people online may not be who they say they are.  Someone who says they are a “12 year old girl” could really be a 35 year old man.
  • To avoid talking in a promiscuous or sexy way online.  Research shows that teens who don’t talk about sex online are less likely to come in contact with a predator.
  • To only have people they personally know on their “friends” list.

 

What to Do

  • If your child has received sexually explicit images or videos, or has been sexually solicited online, immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
  • Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim.  The perpetrator always bears the responsibility for his or her actions.

 

 Common Abbreviations

Very long list at: missingkids.com/adcouncil/pdf/lingo/onlinelingo.pdf

NIFOC

Nude in front of computer

IWALU

I will always love you

PANB

Parents are near by

A/S/L?

Age, sex, location

KOC

Kiss on cheek

F2F

Face to face

CID

Crying in disgrace

KOL

Kiss on lips

121

One to one

NP

Nosy parents or

No problem

POS

Parents over shoulder

PAL

Parents are listening

WUF

Where are you from

TAW

Teachers are watching

P911

My parents are coming

OLL

Online love

IPN

I’m posting nude

ILU

I love you

WTGP

Want to go private

SWAK

Sealed with a kiss

LOL

Laughing out loud

 

Useful Websites for Parents

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