Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Taboo Subject Of Kids Online

We don't hear a lot about children and online use. There are so many different opinions. It's an extremely sensitive subject. No one can agree on the right age that they should be, how much time online should be allowed or even what sites are kid appropriate. I'm not going to give my opinion. I'm just going to give you a little run through about what we are facing when they are online.

Who's child doesn't have some sort of electronic device that they use regularly? At school, at home and on the go. Gadgets are in kids hands all the time now. It's a way of life. What is included with these devices? Games, Music, Books, Cameras and Internet.

Internet is the most concerning for many of us because it has an element of the unknown. As parents we want and need to know.

To get down to business. How are we using the internet? What are we using constantly on the internet? Usually something that has to do with social networking right. Kids are following us into it at a younger and younger age. I've seen 5, 6 or 7 year olds on social networks. We are an internet nation and the subject of guidelines for children online is fuzzy. Left up to the supervising adult. In some cases up to the child.

At first it's very innocent it's games and talking to grandparents on Facebook. But this is the Interent. There is nothing truly safe, nothing private and info is at your finger tips.

How many of you look at the spelling mistakes on your texts and laugh. Well one miss spelled address and our children can end up on who knows what site.

Many of us have put up child safety precautions on our computers. It's not good enough. Kids find ways around them and older kids can just look up how to by pass them. I know because by the age of ten I could navigate our computer better then my parents. Kids are observant they watch and they aren't afraid of messing up the computer to satisfy their curiosity. So consider this curiosity when you put them online.

Do you know how easy it is for kids to find chat rooms. Kids are not going to hide who and what they are. They are going to see it as safe because they are talking to a devise. We know better but has anyone drilled into them theses hidden dangers?

 Some of us may live in a rural area. Dont get cocky, our kids are just as much at risk as every other child out there.

Online predators will go to any length to get what they want. Internet has now put your child in their view. With only a few questions he can have all the information he need to know that your child's age, gender and now all he has to do is talk them into what he wants or threaten them.

You may think oh what can he threaten my child with? He will threaten to tell you. The parent. I hate to tell you this but many of our kids will take that threat very seriously. And end up doing what is asked. Just so they don't get in trouble. That's why kids do need a trusted adult. And sometimes it isn't the parent. And that is okay.

The school called and had an officer from the Cedar Rapids Police Department come in to talk to the middle school and high school then invited interested parents to come as well. He went over so may great points on what predators do to get pictures of our children. Graphic pictures and even videos. The Officer told us about different trends that predators take to get what he wants. What he does with those pictures. He told us about instances that have happened in small towns in Iowa.

He even took us to a popular site that the kids in our school told him that they do use. He started a conversation on this site just to see if he could give us a little hint of what kids could count on finding on it. This is what the conversation looked like...

us- Hi
xx- hi
us- cool
us- no cop
xx has disconnected

This happened with in minutes!!! No fooling!

So here is the deal I remember going on chat sites and talking to random strangers at around 16 and 17 years of age. But when I was that age there was no Snap Chat, picture texts or Skype.  So yes they may have gotten a lot of my information and talked dirty but there wasn't a way of them to convince me to send pictures unless it was through the mail. Which wasn't going to happen. With the mail while going through all that effort of getting pictures printed or developed, putting it in an envelope, buying a stamp. You would have time for second thoughts and backing out. Not anymore now in a child's snap judgement they don't have to think. They just do it. I'm going to send the the pictures they want. As adults, we all know that it's not the innocent at the park pictures that are being asked for. No, it's the fully exposed kind. Just like that, it's sent and can never be unsent. The kids don't know that this could haunt them later. They don't know that things on the internet never go away.

So how do we make sure our kids aren't being subject to this? Set rules, have a contract with your child, stick to the contract, teach them what to look for, teach them not to give out information, tell them if they get anything suspicious at all sent to them. Not to delete it but to show an adult. As the adult call the authorities! There is no shame in it. The idea behind it is to make these people stop targeting children. To prevent them from harming other children.


"Don't let your child online.... without you."

Be involved, check in on them from time to time, set rules, be responsive and appreciative if your child shows you questionable activities. They may have been on the wrong site but they came to you.

For more information go to NetSmartz .  NetSmartz also has great worksheets and tips on how to talk to your child. Talk to your local authorities about concerns. Encourage your school to have an officer come and speak at your school about this subject. The more informed you and your child are the better.

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