Do you Know Where Your Teen is Online?By Child Safety Specialist Jul 19, 2010 | 10:25:00 amPosted in: Affordable Security, Child Safety, Family
I just finished reading an article which discusses a new feature that Facebook is going to be testing out in the UK. It’s a “panic button” that teens can voluntarily place on their Facebook page. If they feel that someone is stalking them, they can hit the button and they will be connected with resources hosted by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. The teens can then report someone who they feel is acting inappropriately and be given tips on how to deal with online threats.
This addition came in response to the death of a 17-year-old girl who was murdered by a 32-year-old convicted sex offender posing as a teenage boy on Facebook. The man struck up a relationship with the girl under the guise of being a 16-year-old boy and lured her into meeting. According to all reports, she was a bright and caring girl who easily made friends. She wasn’t some loner desperate for friends. The point is…this can happen to any kid!
The problem with something like a “panic button” is that it assumes that the person contacting your child is going to make some overt, disgusting comment online which will identify him as a predator. It doesn’t work that way!! These guys slowly build a relationship with your child. They are master manipulators who understand how to ingratiate themselves and prey on a child’s insecurities and desire for attention. By the time an online relationship has developed, a teen is never going to recognize this person as a predator and would never think to report him.
The key to keeping kids safe online is education and conversation. It’s not enough to have “the talk” just once – these conversations need to happen continuously. Teens need to be constantly reminded that they can never agree to a meeting with someone they’ve met online alone or even with friends in an isolated area. A few other things to keep in mind:
- Don’t assume a teen site is only populated by teens
- Never give out personal information such as the name of your school, town, street address or phone number. Many times kids will innocently post a photo with the name of their school or the mascot in the background.
- Remind your child never to accept gifts from anyone online. This is one way in which predators ingratiate themselves with a child.
- Parents should do an Internet search monthly to check what information is online about all family members.
- Visit sites such as www.netsmartz.org which is run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. There are resources and games for every age to help teach about Internet safety.
Above all, make sure your teen knows it’s safe to talk to you about what’s happening online and the relationships they’ve formed. Open lines of communication are, without a doubt, the best protection.
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