8 Tips to Protect Your Kids from Online Predators
Children of today are more in tune with technology than most adults. In fact, most kids know how to operate a smartphone before they reach the first or second grade. So, if they know more about technology than you do, how do you keep them safe?
Here are a few tips to help you stay one step ahead of them and protect them from a possible online predator:
- Keep an open line of communication with your child(ren).
Your child’s support system starts at home. An open line of communication will enable your child(ren) to come to you with questions and concerns when things might not seem right online. Encourage them to discuss their online activity with you and set aside time to closely supervise their online activities when they are perusing or playing games, visiting websites or asking for your permission to install new apps for the cell phone.
- Never give out personal information.
In the same way that we teach our children not to open the front door when a stranger knocks, we need also to teach them the rules of using the Internet or a cellular phone. They must never give out their name, address or phone number without a parent’s consent. They must never send a text message or a photo to a person they don’t know. No exceptions. Depending on age, give them a list of websites that they can visit to play games or use for school homework, but they cannot veer from those sites unless they receive a parent’s approval. Give your children examples of how to spot online predators. In the same way you’d teach them not to help a stranger search for their lost dog at the park, you should explain the suspicious questions an online predator might ask, and how they might trick a kid to weasel their way into obtaining personal information. Even telling a predator what school they go to can narrow the predator’s search. If you provide and enforce these safety rules early on, they’ll have less of an issue adhering to the rules.
- Teach them safety skills.
Help them build a habit of security. Children, at any age, should know not to talk to strangers. The same concept goes for online strangers. Teach them that it is not safe to talk to strangers — not even online.
This kind of training can start early. You can teach a young child this basic safety skill.
You can include some of these points when talking with your child:
a. Give your kids examples of how online predators usually lure young children. In fact, a predator may pose as a child just playing a multi-player game and start asking basic questions such as what school their game opponent attends. Most online predators join online games and lure in young gamers by befriending them during game play and luring them into private chat rooms to find out identifying information such as their addresses or telephone numbers. Remind them never to give out personal information to someone online and not to enter private chat rooms because it may not even be a kid they’re gaming with.
b. Remind your children those predators will lie to get what they want. Online predators might use terms like, “Your mom wants you to meet her at this address” or “I am your sister’s friend” or “Come to my birthday party at the park.” They will lead your kids to believe they are acquainted with you or your relatives and try to convince them to meet in person. So, give them specific instructions not to follow anyone’s directive unless you have personally told them in advance.
c. Don’t set up an online profile name with your child’s full name. AnnieSmith22 is not a good idea if the child’s name is Annie Smith. Be creative and use something else. Don’t use street addresses, phone numbers or anything personal in an online profile or in an email address for a child. And decide what age a child should even have an email address.
d. Tell your kids that people are sometimes not who they say they are online. They should never befriend anyone online without actually personally knowing them. They should never accept friend requests merely for the number of friends they want to have. Accepting friend requests from people they don’t know is equivalent to giving someone access to their life.
e. Important! Remind your children to NEVER tell strangers where they are or where they are going. On most social media sites, your child can check in or post where they are. They usually post information about their whereabouts, post selfies or videos, and sometimes, even describe what they are eating. Such information will only help online predators locate them — faster. If they must check in on social media, have them click that status update once they’ve left that location. It’s a safety precaution.
If you keep in mind these safety tips, you will be aware of what your kids are doing online and be able to protect them from online predators.