How do I teach my kids to watch out for online predators?
I highly encourage parents to wait until their kids are prepared to make responsible decisions about situations they could encounter with strangers before allowing access to chat rooms, online multiplayer games, or social media accounts. Online predators are tricky and persuasive, especially to vulnerable youth. Without the ability to use good judgment, this type of interaction should be off-limits.
Online predators are tricky and persuasive, especially to vulnerable youth.
Currently, many of the social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat prohibit users under 13 years old. But this does not stop kids from setting up accounts. By simply entering a false birth date, kids could have access to strangers and outside influences without your knowledge.
It is crucial for parents to talk with their kids about the dangers that come with interacting online. While interaction with friends and family can be positive and entertaining, kids risk meeting people who could cause them harm.
Your children need to be aware that people they meet online may not be who they portray themselves to be. Predators can impersonate other children or misrepresent themselves to draw information out of your kids. They will use fake pictures and encourage friendship by talking about real life. Children are naive and can have a false sense of protection behind a screen.
Kids must understand the importance of not sharing personal information online.
Kids must understand the importance of not sharing personal information online. Things such as their full name, address, phone number, and the school they attend should never be shared with people they have not met or that you have not approved. Personal pictures need to be monitored closely and clear expectations set as to what is appropriate and not appropriate to be sending or posting on social media. Always stress the importance of never meeting in person with anyone they have met online.
You need to define what is expected of them. Put rules in place for who they are allowed to “friend” on social media or interact with in chat rooms. Be clear about what is appropriate to discuss with friends or strangers. Have boundaries concerning where and when devices can be used. You are better able to monitor screen usage if you limit devices to only common areas of the house, rather than behind closed bedroom doors.
Cultivate a relationship with your children so they can talk to you about any topic.
Parental approval should be considered before any apps are downloaded on their device, especially ones that allow interaction with strangers. You should also have access to any email accounts or social media presence they maintain. If rules are broken at any time, consequences need to be enforced, and devices should be taken away.
Your kids need to feel safe to bring to your attention any conversation or interaction that makes them nervous or uncomfortable. Cultivate a relationship with your children so they can talk to you about any topic. A close connection with your kids is one of the best safeguards against online predators.
It is really up to us as parents to know what our children are doing on their devices. Accountability software like Accountable2You allows you to monitor their device and internet activity and stay involved with their actions and decisions. Being aware of how they use technology will open up communication and give you an opportunity to talk about their choices, so you can train them to use their devices responsibly.
Yours in accountability,
“Ask Ali” is an op-ed column answering common questions about accountability and related topics.