By Dana Barrett
Keeping children safe is the number one priority of parents and educators alike. But how do you ensure that children are safe when there is no one to monitor social interactions online? Approximately 37% of children and teens have become the target of online bullying, and once you’ve been targeted – it’s even more likely that you’ll be targeted again.
The FBI currently estimates there are more than 500,000 online predators using multiple screen names surfing the web every day. More than 50% of their victims are between the ages of 12 and 15. When you’re on the internet, in chat rooms, or using any social media, here are 6 tips to help you play it safe.
1. Avoid Provocative Screen names and Images
Every kid wants to sound cool when sharing their username with friends and peers. You may think that choosing a screen name with fresh, or suggestive words or phrases could attract more followers – but it could land you in hot water too. Internet predators surf the web trying to find young users with eye-catching screen names who may be open to making new friends. Don’t let that be you. Remember, when picking a screen name – keep it simple, and somewhat generic. Don’t include personal details like your actual full name or any other identifying information like a birthdate, your school name, or specifics about where you live.
When it comes to sharing pictures, the best strategy is to only share images that you would share with family members – especially parents. Social Apps like Snapchat may give the illusion of privacy and security when you share photos because the image disappears in a few seconds. Remember, anyone can take a screenshot of your image or use that image to cause personal harm in the future. Remember – once you’ve posted something online, it lives forever. Even on Snapchat.
2. Flattery Online – Especially by Strangers or Acquaintances should make you Wary
When posting news or accomplishments online, or even a photo of yourself with the lead in the school play, it’s wonderful to receive “likes”, kudos and praise from family and close friends. But if your post draws some over-the-top, creepy compliments from users you don’t recognize or barely know you should exercise caution. Block strangers from following you, especially if they text or comment anything that makes you feel uneasy. If they continue to try to reach out – never respond. It’s best to talk through the issue with a parent or a guardian.
3. If Another User gets too Personal – End the Conversation
It doesn’t matter if it’s the cool kid in class, or a popular YouTube celebrity with thousands of followers, if another user dm’s you or reaches out to ask you personal questions, play it safe and end the conversation immediately. Especially if the user is someone much older than you or a complete stranger.
4. Remember – People aren’t Always Who They Seem to be Online
Even if the user is another student or peer, be sure to discuss options for pursuing an in-person friendship with your parents first. Some kids engage in online bullying by pretending to be interested in a friendship so they can gather personal information about you. Their goal is to harass you or embarrass you with the information later on – in front of other kids.
5. Never Arrange to Meet with Someone that you Met Online
If someone that you’ve been chatting with or following online suggests meeting in person, discuss it with your parents immediately and never agree to an in-person meeting with a stranger. Adult predators often pose as children or teens online, to lure you into a sense of safety about getting together for a secret private meeting. Even if it’s someone from your school – if you don’t know them very well, make sure that the meeting is in a social setting preferably with parents close by.
6. Tell a Parent Anytime that you Feel Uneasy
Be sure to talk to your parents or teachers anytime you have questions about any interaction on the internet – especially if you feel uneasy about a user, a message, a photo, or a text.
The internet is exactly like the real world – only larger, unmonitored, and unsupervised. Elevated Life Solutions is committed to keeping children safe online, and we have partnered with Cybersmarties to extend that protection to children all over the world.
Cybersmarties is a completely safe social media platform that currently serves over 200,000 children between the ages of 7 to 12 in Ireland and India. Our goal is the grow this platform across every continent free of charge to all school-age children everywhere.
We can continue this mission with the help of generous donations by caring individuals and families – just like you. Click here to donate.