According to a recent study from Kids Live Safe, more than 82% of online sex crimes originate from social networking sites that predators use to gain insight into their victim’s habits and likes. With new apps coming out everyday, online predators are exploiting these social networking platforms to target students. So, it is important that parents and educators be aware of the tactics used online by predators in order to keep students safe.
We asked parents, educators, counselors, and safety experts “how do predators find & contact kids on social media and online and what are your best tips for keeping kids safe?” Read below for their best social media safety tips.
Monitor your child’s online activityMatt Pinsker, Virginia Commonwealth University
Predators find children primarily through social media. This can start with a friend request on Twitter, a dialogue on a forum, or using a video platform like Omegle. There are a few things parents can do to keep their student safe. First, so the child is not feeling lonely and is less inclined to seek out or be receptive to strangers online, ensure your child has a healthy social life. Next, monitor your child’s use of the internet and social media. There is software available which will not allow the use of social media without parental permission, as well as block access to adult content but nothing is better than having an open dialog with your children about digital safety.
No monitoring app is better than having an ongoing digital safety discussionJosh Ochs, SmartSocial, @JoshOchs
Online predators use apps like Kik Messenger, Bumble, IMVU, and Live.me to target students. While there are many monitoring softwares and apps available for parents, nothing is better at keeping your kids safe than having an ongoing digital safety discussion. Monitor your child’s digital footprint regularly and use the information you discover to start a dialog. Whenever your student wants a new app, make them the expert and have them teach you about the app; then do some research independently to determine if the app is safe for your family to use.
Let children know they shouldn’t give away personal information onlineJoanna Douglas, Clean Affinity
Parents need to be more careful about what their kids install on their phones, gaming consoles, and computers. As a parent, I have noticed that even simple games like Minecraft can be full of online predators not just social media. Of course, with your child thinking that all players are ok to talk to, they converse innocently without knowing that they are already giving away their personal information to potential cyberstalkers.
Discouraging kids from going online will only make them more curiousJohn Iannarelli, former FBI National Spokesperson, @FBIjohn_i
The best way to protect your kids from these threats is to educate them about what to say and what not to say. Discouraging them from playing on their phones, tablets, gaming consoles, computers and etc. will only make them more curious. Talk to your children properly and let them know that they shouldn’t be giving away any piece of information online especially if they do not know who they are playing with.
It’s also ok to install software that will track your child’s activity on the internet or computer. There are loads of screen sharing applications that you can use to monitor what your child talks about.
Remind your teen how easy it is to create a fake profile online by setting up a new account togetherSheri Gazitt, Teen Wise Seattle, @TeenWiseSeattle
One of the reasons that teens like to be online is to connect with new and interesting people. The halls of middle and high school can seem torturous at times with all of the puzzling social hierarchies and demanding schedules. Online is a place where teens can find support from other teens. The issue is that there are predators lurking and listening for the teen that is in need of emotional support. Online predators then exploit that vulnerability. It’s not difficult to pose as a fellow teen. All it takes is a stolen photograph for a profile pic and a fake bio. In general, tweens and teens are very trusting when it comes to online connections. If someone says they are a teen, they believe them. To remind our teens how easy it is to create a fake profile, go onto a social media site and set up a new account together. Have fun looking for the right pictures and creating your dream bio. It’s a fun but important reminder of how easy it is to lie about who you actually are.
Talk to kids about the platforms they useJustin Lavelle, BeenVerified
It’s crucial that parents stay current on what their kids are doing online. Talk to them about which apps, games, and social platforms they use. Set guidelines about where and when they can be on the computer. Make rules regarding who they can talk with, for instance, only people they know in real life. If your child is into gaming, help them set privacy settings to limit the contacts in their games. Make sure that all privacy settings are on and that you have a good policy in place that you openly and frequently discuss with your child about what can be posted, tweeted, snapped, or shared.