Keeping our children safe online
Keep your kids’ identities safe
“Technology can threaten your kids without you even knowing it,” says Joe Mason, author of Bankrupt At Birth, which details the recent rise of child identity theft. “As a nation, we’ve become too trusting and parents have grown accustomed to sharing their kids’ personal information with doctors, schools, insurance companies and the like. If this information somehow falls into the hands of the wrong person, your child’s ID could be stolen within a blink of the eye, resulting in years of red tape and credit issues.”
Mason recommends parents become more selfish when it comes to sharing personal information by asking questions such as why the information is needed and what procedures are in place should there be a breach in security. For more information about Bankrupt at Birth, including more ways you can keep your kids’ identities protected, visit www.bankruptatbirthbook.com.
Updated: April 12, 2013 8:48AM
Keep your kids safe online with these tips from national experts.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center (www.ojjdp.gov), 66 percent of children who see online pornography are exposed to it as a result of unintentional exposure caused by pop-up ads, erroneous search results and email spam. To combat this issue, as well as protect our children from a multitude of other dangers, forensic pediatrician and child abuse expert Leena S. Dev recommends talking to your kids about the potential issues related to online usage.
“Parents should let their kids know that they should absolutely come to them any time and every time they see something unusual pop up on the computer screen,” Dev said. “Even if it’s something as simple as a low battery indicator, it’s a good idea to get kids into the habit of telling their parents about anything that doesn’t seem quite right.”
Reinforce Stranger Danger
Just as we teach young kids to “never talk to strangers,” we need to teach our children about avoiding “talking” to strangers online. Dr. Amy Barton knows firsthand the dangers that could arise when a child “befriends” a stranger on the Internet. As a pediatrician who specializes in child abuse cases, Barton works closely with law enforcement agencies to crack down on abuse and endangerment issues. She believes parents need to teach their kids that people are not always who they say they are online. In fact, sometimes older men or women can pose as kids for nefarious reasons. Barton suggests that parents set up boundaries and guidelines for their kids’ Internet usage such as enforcing a policy where they can only communicate with people whom they actually know in real life.
Make Technology Work for You
Social media expert Britt Michaelian (brittmichaelian.com) recommends setting up Google alerts with your kids’ names so you can be alerted any time their names appear online. You can also install computer programs that monitor, block or filter your children’s online activities. But be careful, as even the best programs have flaws and workarounds which make them more like safety helmets or seat belts, rather than fail-safe security systems. For more information about ways technology can help you, visit www.wiredsafety.org.
Go Beyond Centralized Computers
In the “olden days” (i.e. pre-smartphones and tablets), parents could “protect” their kids by keeping the family computer in a centralized location where parents could easily monitor all activity. These days, the Internet is everywhere and social media has become a way of life. Therefore, it’s vital for parents to teach their kids to be ethical digital citizens. In part two of this series (which will be published next month) we will explore what it means to be an ethical digital citizen and look at ways we can empower our kids to safely engage within the world of social media.