While the Internet undeniably offers a wealth of information and convenient services, it also offers an equal number of scams, phishing schemes, malware, cyber bullies, and online predators as well as obscene and offensive content. In the past it was advised to simply install some virus protection, set some parental controls and monitor your child’s online activity by keeping the family computer in a common area of the home where the screen can be easily seen. Unfortunately, this is no longer good enough.
With the explosion of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, ultrabooks, etc. children now have the ability to access the Internet and each other discretely at anytime and from virtually anywhere. So what do we as parents do? We must have an open and candid conversation with our children about the online dangers that exist and resist the thought that “It can’t possibly happen to my child”. The sad truth is that thousands of children from all walks of life become victims of Internet crimes every year.
If you still don’t think it can happen to your child, here are some statistics from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children that may convince you:
- 1 in 3 teens (12-17) have experienced online harassment
- Girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying (38% girls vs. 26% boys)
- 1 in 25 youths receive an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact
- In more than one-quarter (27%) of incidents, solicitors asked youths for sexual photographs of themselves
- 73% of teens (12-17) have profiles on social networking sites
- 47% of teens (12-17) have uploaded photos; 14 % have posted videos
- In 82% of online sex crimes against minors, the offender used the victim’s social networking site to gain information about the victim’s likes and dislikes
- 26% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain information about the victim’s whereabouts at a specific time
Here at the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay we run the NetSmartz program every Tuesday in our Education Rooms. The NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children that provides age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safer on and offline. NetSmartz utilizes videos, online games, activity cards, and presentations to educate children on how to lead a safer online life.
Even though Club members receive online safety education, it is equally important to take time at home to explain to your children that their Internet use is not a right but a privilege. With the privilege of internet use come certain expectations and responsibilities for knowing acceptable online behavior. Emphasize that you know you can count on them to use the Internet responsibly and it is your job as a parent to be involved with their online life to help keep them safe.
The following are resources to help protect you and your family from online dangers:
The Enough Is Enough® mission is “To Make the Internet Safer for Children and Families”: http://www.enough.org/
FBI – A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide
Cyberbullying Research Center: http://cyberbullying.us/
Internet Safety – National Crime Prevention Council: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/internet-safety
David Woods- IT Director, Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay