Tips for Parents to Help Keep Kids Safe Online

 

Missing Kids.png
Alicia Kozakiewicz standing in front of the wall of missing children at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children headquarters. Read Alicia’s heartbreaking story below.

I was asked to talk about online safety tips that parents should understand to help keep their children safe in the online world. Here are some of my talking points:

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TALKING (i.e., TEACHING) POINTS

  • Understand that this is social engineering in many cases — these are bad people who are deceiving children into doing what they would not ordinarily do and, they are very good at it — they are professional con-artists
  • Be interested and engaged in your children’s lives
  • Discuss online safety very early – don’t just tell, but teach
    • Teach them about the deception, promises, tricks, and games that bad people use
    • This is the same old “do you want to pet my puppy” but with new tools
    • Explain real-world examples of how people have lied to children and abducted them (tell them about Alicia Kozakiewicz’s story of her abduction or, more recently, about  this story)
    • Help them understand how just a little information can lead to a lot more, this is step-by-step incrementalism
    • What you send over the Internet never goes away
    • Protect passwords, use non-obvious ones that bad guys can’t guess
  • Start early with keeping computers, tablets, phones public and open in the family – and keep watching them as long as you can
  • Understand that strangers online are every bit or more dangerous than strangers anywhere else – they usually have an agenda and it is not good
    • Many will pretend to be people they are not – usually, they will portray themselves as being whatever the child is wanting to see
      • Attractive boy, popular friend, high-roller with all the cool stuff
      • Follow real-world rules – if it sounds too good to be true, assume it is!
  • stopExplain how online extortion or sextortion works – they will entice children to send a compromising picture or information and then use the threat of disclosing the picture or information to force them to send more and more, then use that as leverage over them to force them into even more compromising situations
  • Make sure children understand that if they make a mistake, it is much better to tell you, rather than try to hide it – the bad guys will use this fear from parents against their children
  • Snoop and ask questions to the extent you can — no, your children do not have the “right to privacy” that they think they have
  • Friend, follow, connect, and engage to extent you can – and watch for strange new connections that show up out of nowhere
  • Watch for unexplained appearance of money, jewelry, toys or other things you would not expect your children to have obtained or bought on their own
  • Watch for sudden changes in behavior, attitude, mood, withdrawing from family (yes, children go through normal ups and downs, especially teenagers, but look for the unusual changes)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

While there are many great resources on this issue, here are a few that I have found to be helpful:

Please feel free to share other tips and resources in the comments!

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