According to the New York Times, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused in 2018 – more than double what they found the previous year.
For parents, caregivers, and concerned citizens, headlines like this can be overwhelming and disheartening. How can this be the case? And how do you help minimize the chance of children being exploited on the internet?
For kids, technology and the internet can be an opportunity to learn, explore the world, and socialize and play with friends. But how do you protect them from the dangers that come along with it? By having ongoing conversations with your kids, educating them, and putting safeguards in place, you can help them have safer digital experiences.
General Tips & Guidance:
- Make sure your youth-serving organizations have and enforce communication policies that protect children. Teachers and other youth workers should not be communicating privately with children. Instead, they should use group texts, messages, or other communications that include parents.
- Tell kids to never give out identifying information such as their name, address, neighborhood, phone number, school information, or extracurricular activities.
- Tell your kids to let you know immediately if someone asks for pictures or personal information.
- Be aware of what apps your kids are using and know their capabilities. Is there a chat function? Are they chatting or playing with strangers?
- Set reasonable time limits on computers and smartphones. Have rules around where devices live and can be used.
- Use your name and email for when signing up for games or apps. This ensures you are the primary contact rather than your child.
- Talk to your kids about inappropriate questions and language. Use age-appropriate examples.
- Smartphones and tablets have a location services feature that allows devices to broadcast their location to the user’s apps and contacts. Ensure this feature is turned off.
- For older kids, talk to them about sexting and cyberbullying. Explain the long-term consequences of sending sexual messages or pictures. Discuss the dangers and permanence of communication sent digitally, even if it claims to be private.
- Let them know you respect their privacy, but will periodically monitor use, including emails, photos, messaging, and apps.
Like most conversations with your kids about safety, this is an ongoing one. Check-in with them often and remind them they can tell you anything and come to you if anyone makes them uncomfortable.
Looking for resources to help teach your kids about online safety?
For your kids: Check out NetSmartz, NCMEC’s online safety education program. It provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children to be safer online with the goal of helping children to become more aware of potential online risks and empowering them to help prevent victimization by making safer choices on- and offline.
For parents or other adults: Check out Monique Burr Foundation’s Real World Safety: Protecting Youth Online & Off training. This free online course teaches you the risks to children from bullying, online and off, and other risks associated with technology use.
Do you have any tips to add? Comment below!
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