According to Darkness2Light, there are 5 simple steps that parents can take to help keep their children safe. Last week I discussed the first step, Learn the Facts. This week I will be discussing step 2: Minimize the Risk.
How to minimize the risk for your children as they navigate the unsafe waters of the internet and cell phones?
Access to the internet poses an enormous risk to children and as the parent you have the fortune of being somewhat in control of this topic at home. It is essential that you spend time researching this ever changing online world. Start by updating your parent controls and internet/phone safety plan. Review with your child the ways they can stay safe online. It is very important to monitor tweens and teens with their cell phone and internet usage. In our house, privacy online is not a right. Here is a great article posted recently by THE GUARDIAN. This article is a great place to start and offers many extra resources and videos.
Even when a parent monitors a child online, events can occur that are beyond our control. Sadly, a local girl from Suffolk, Virginia was lured away from her home and held against her will this year. This is a terrifying story and it could happen to any one of us who has a teen. Please click on this link and read the story of Sanise Hall. Denise Allen, Sanise’s mom, was already actively monitoring her daughter’s social media and online activities. According to the Pilot Online, “Allen was upset about text messages her daughter had been sending to boys she knew, and Allen told her she was going to start restricting social media access”.
Do not let your children under the age of 12 have unsupervised cell phone time or computer time. Use your parent controls on all devices while they are online. They can get into such a mess! There are a number of apps you can put on your phones and computers to help you keep track of your children and restrict access if needed. A friend of mine just shared with me a really cool app she uses to monitor and restrict her child and his internet time. Check out: OUR PACT
OUR PACT is an app you can install on your child’s phone. You can set hours for access to apps and it also shuts down the web browser. This app puts the control of app usage back in the hands of the parents. This app can essentially turn a “smart phone” into a “dumb phone” with one click. This is great if your child is grounded from the internet, but you still want him to have the ability to call or text you from his phone.
Make sure you are aware of some of the most dangerous apps and websites that young children and tweens use. Facebook, twitter, and instagram should be monitored constantly by parents. But, Have you heard of these?
1. Ask.fm : This awful app lets kids ask and answer questions anonymously. This app has been noted and mentioned in a few recent suicides. It is an open invitation to be a bully and get away with it. Stay away!
2. KiK Messenger : This is a private messenger app that their parents can’t see. There isn’t much a parent can do to verify the identity of someone on KiK, this poses a risk that a sexual predator may be chatting with your child. It also seems that adults use it as a bit of a hook up site. Scary!
3. Yik Yak : Is known as ‘the anonymous social wall for anything and everything’. Many kids are using this to post anonymous attacks and participate in bully behavior. For more information on bullying and the effects of cyberbullying please take a few minutes to visit Kirk Smalley at his website Stand for the Silent. Mr. Smalley came to our high school two years ago and made a huge impression on the students at our school. His story is moving and he is truly inspirational. His message is so powerful that it changed the bullying behavior at our school.
4. Whisper : Is an awful app for children. It lets users set up anonymous accounts to make their messages or confessions overlap a picture. Other users can then “like” or comment on. It is full of abusive and sexual content. The app also show the users location. SCARY!
5. SnapChat: This is a popular and sometimes fun app for kids when used correctly. It allows users to send photos that will “self destruct” within 10 seconds. But, nobody tells young users that the people who receive these snapchats can take “screen shots”and keep pics forever. This app may give kids a false sense of security and can encourage kids to feel more comfortable “sexting” or sending naked photos.
6. Vine: Vine is Twitter’s mobile app that lets kids make and share short videos (usually 6 seconds). This app is rated for 17 and up. However, many younger teens are using it. Kids can search and easily find a number of illegal and x-rated activities here. Vine videos can be hysterically funny and harmless to totally innapropriate.
7. Omegle : This is a video chat app where you do not have to give your identity and you are encouraged to chat between “YOU” and “A STRANGER” This is another anonymous app. However, there is a way to connect the Omegle app to your Facebook. When connected to facebook personal information such as home, school, location, friends and other personal identifying information can be obtained. The risk this app poses to children is huge, especially when linked to facebook. Sexual predators can stalk your child’s personal information here and use it to lure them into conversation and possible contact.
8. Poof : This is a really sneaky and dangerous app that lets kids hide their online activity. It actually can hide all apps on your child’s phone with one touch. It is a tricky way for your child to hide their true online activity from you.
9. ooVoo: is a free video, voice, and messaging app. Users can have group chats with up to 12 people for free – This is not a safe chat room. Stay away!
10.Tumblr: is unique in that you can find truly wonderful content. However, there is a dark, disturbing and illegal side. It’s a streaming scrapbook of text, photos, and/or videos and audio clips. Users create and follow blogs that can be seen by anyone online ( If the user makes the blog public). Many teens have blogs for personal use: sharing photos, videos, music and really anything they find interesting. Unfortunately, with one simple word search, a teen can discover a world of disturbing content and bad ideas. The variety on this site is overwhelming and unregulated. Users can create “wish lists” for followers to actually send gifts from followers. It is very typical for your child to have followers that they do not know. Imagine a strange man sending your daughter a gift from her “wish list”!