How Do I Keep My Kids Safe Online?
Now more than ever people are communicating online using messaging, cell phone texting and social networking sites. Unfortunately, some young people and adults alike are using these forms of communication for a variety of possible criminal acts.
Facebook is one of the most common and popular social networking sites. There are over 400 million active users of Facebook worldwide, and 14 million photographs are uploaded daily by people to the website.
Despite privacy settings, Facebook profiles are not as secure as one may think. There still are ways to anonymously view private photos at any time and often way too much personal information is shared, available for the world to see.
Here are some important tips for using Facebook or other social networking sites:
- Help your kids understand what information should be private. Tell them why it’s important to keep some things — about themselves, family members and friends — to themselves. Information like their full given name, Social Insurance Number, street address, phone number, and family financial information — like bank or credit card account numbers — is private and should stay that way. Tell them not to choose a screen name that gives away too much personal information. Never give out a password or username to someone who requests them.
- Explain that kids should post only information that you — and they — are comfortable with others seeing. Even if privacy settings are turned on, some — or even all — of your child’s profile may be seen by a broader audience than you’re comfortable with. Encourage your child to think about the language used in a blog, and to think before posting pictures and videos. Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches, and teachers may view your child’s postings. Even a kid’s screen name could make a difference. Encourage kids and teens to think about the impression that screen names could make.
- Remind your kids that once they post information online, they can’t take it back. Even if they delete the information from a site, older versions may exist on other people’s computers and be circulated online possibly indefinitely or forever.
- Know how your kids are getting online. More and more, kids are accessing the Internet through their cell phones. Find out about what limits you can place on your child’s cell phone. Some cellular companies have plans that limit downloads, Internet access, and texting; other plans allow kids to use those features only at certain times of day. Talk to your cell phone provider to access texting records if you are the plan account holder.
- Talk to your kids about bullying. Online bullying can take many forms, from spreading rumours online and posting or forwarding private messages without the sender’s OK, to sending threatening messages. Explain to your kids that the words they type and the images they post can have real-world consequences. They can make the target of the bullying feel bad, make the sender look bad — and, sometimes, can bring on criminal investigations from law enforcement. Encourage your kids to talk to you if they feel targeted by a bully or threatened in any way.
- Talk to your kids about avoiding sex talk online. Recent research shows that teens who don’t talk about sex with strangers online are less likely to come in contact with a sexual predator. If you’re concerned that your child is engaging in risky online behavior, you can search the blog sites they visit to see what information they’re posting. Try searching by their name, nickname, school, hobbies, grade, or area where you live. Speak to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) as you are the account holder.
- Tell your kids to trust their gut if they have suspicions. If they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online, encourage them to tell you. You can then help them report concerns to the police and to the social networking site itself. Most sites have links where users can immediately report abusive, suspicious, or inappropriate online behavior.
- Go where your kids go online. Sign up for — and use — the social networking spaces that your kids visit. Let them know that you’re there, and help teach them how to act appropriately and responsibly as they socialize online. Place your home computer in common areas like: living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, rumpus or games rooms instead of personal bedrooms or children dens.
- Review your child’s friends list. You may want to limit your child’s online “friends” to people your child actually knows and is friendly with in real life. Predators may not appear who they really are online, and often portray themselves as a school friend or young person.
- Use the internet for knowledge about online safety tips:
- ConnectSafely www.connectsafely.org
- GetNetWise www.getnetwise.org
- Staysafe www.staysafe.org
- Wired Safety www.wiredsafety.org
- Internet 101 http://www.internet101.ca/en/parents.php
- Cybertip.ca http://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/
- The Door That’s Not Locked http://www.thedoorthatsnotlocked.ca/app/en/
- Mobile Safety http://www.mobility.protectchildren.ca/app/en/
Social networking as a form of communication is the norm. The internet is an amazing place, however understanding the risks involved; and how open and vast ‘the cyber information highway’ is indeed important.
Reporting Internet Crime
If you receive any suspicious information over the internet that you want to bring to the attention of the Medicine Hat Police please send an e-mail message to “[email protected]” Read more about the Technological Crimes Unit.