If you’re not already talking to your kids about their online use, now is an excellent time to start. During the last few months, not only has learning and school work shifted online to livestreaming platforms, but socializing with others has as well. Both of these activities are essential for a child’s growth and development but can also expose them to unwanted attention and harm. Preparing kids with ethical decision making and teaching them to recognize dangerous behaviors are essential components of a good online experience.
Technology can be beneficial, but also allows those looking to harm direct and private access to children. Compared to adults, young children are less able to spot manipulative techniques and defend themselves against them. In 60% of the reports submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), offenders contacted children online directly, and 32% of the reports asked them to meet offline. To prevent these types of interactions on livestreaming platforms, children should always be in an open area at home where parents can see what they are doing on their devices. Warn your children to talk to you or a trusted adult if they are asked any of the following by someone online:
- Offering to pay money or gift cards in exchange for photos
- Pretending to work for a modeling agency
- Demand to move their communication to another online platform
- Asking personal questions such as where they live
- Pressuring them to meet offline
For parents, it’s essential to pay close attention to kids gathering in large groups on livestreaming platforms as well. If you or your child find inappropriate content online, never share it! Instead, report it to your local law enforcement and the NCMEC CyberTip Line, report.cybertip.org.
Having frequent conversations and reminders about online use are critical to keeping kids safe. For more information and tips, visit MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/InternetSafety. For informative videos and games for kids to learn about online safety, visit NetSmartzKids.org/into-the-cloud.