We drill in our children’s heads the tools to be safe. We tell them to avoid strangers and report bad people on the internet and still, sometimes that is not enough.
Criminals or those who prey on the innocence of little kids and some older kids are just that, criminals. They know how to manipulate and convince our children that they are friendly and non-threatening. Sometimes I wonder if the constant lectures and news reports about your children being hurt is enough to convince my children that strangers and some that are not, are bad people.
My child was on the internet, on a site that is specifically for children. They asked for the parent’s email and sent all communication through the parent, so I figured it was safe. Well, they added a new chat feature. The chat feature, instead of choosing pre-written text the children can freely write and correspond with others saying whatever they want. Instantly my child was targeted by a predator. At first, it was innocent and he acted as if he was a child also, then he asked for pictures of my child. Luckily my child was confused by the request and asked me to help. When my child approached me about it I almost lost my marbles. I explained that it is never okay to send pictures, personal information, or details about who they are, where we live, or the school attending. I explained to my child that chat sites are off-limits and that if anything like that happens again while on the internet to tell me or dad immediately. My child was a little shaken up, but I need that response from my children so I knew that next time they will tell me right away. I decided to continue the chat with the man, who had targeted my child and he became persistent and even threatening. I eventually revealed that I was my child’s mother and that I had reported him to the website and that the police were next. He apologized over and over again, acting as if he had no idea he was talking with a child, forgetting the fact that he was on a website specifically for children. He withdrew from the conversation and deleted his screen name. I’m sure he just made another one and I’m sure he’s contemplating how to target his next victim. I was beyond mad, and I felt like my child had become vulnerable. I did not give up, I pressured the website admin to look more into this and after months of nagging the heck out of them and getting others to send letters of concern, they eliminated the chat feature. That is one, but there are hundreds more out there and our children are the victims.
So how do we keep our children safe?
~Continue to talk to your children about stranger danger and being targeted on the internet.
~Do daily or weekly check-ins with your children. Make it a casual conversation so that they are more comfortable with sharing all experiences with you.
~Have access to your child’s email account, social media accounts, games they frequent, and school accounts.
~Do computer and cell phone checks. When a child has a cell phone it opens them up to so much more. Learn about all the things that children are doing to hide things from their parents, so you are one step ahead.
~Report suspicious behavior.
~Keep computer use in high traffic areas in your home.
~The biggest thing is to avoid the word that all parents hate BOREDOM. This gets children, teens, and adults in a lot of trouble.
If you have any more tips to keep our children that are in public places, in school, and on the internet safe please share.