School is out, which means kids are home. And, what happens when kids are home? They spend more time online. In fact, screen time increases 26 percent for posting and 43 percent for sharing videos on Facebook alone in the summer months.
With an increase of time spent online in the summer months, it means that there are more opportunities for kids to find themselves in dangerous situations (knowingly or unknowingly). A staggering 7 million people are online at any given time, which means that there are millions of opportunities for private information to be given to predators and opportunities for them to groom and lure children into dangerous situations.
What’s also disconcerting? A skilled pedophile can groom a child and establish trust in under 45 minutes.
If you think your kids are safe online, sadly that isn’t the case. If you wouldn’t drop your child off at a public sporting arena, say with 50k strangers on average, and leave them there for hours on their own, then why are you letting them go into online worlds with strangers for hours at a time?
A friend of mine is an Online Shepherd, which means he looks for potential predators grooming children. A few months ago, he was playing an online game and noticed two kids talking to each other in-game. One kid started asking the other questions, to which the child being questioned responded that they were feeling uncomfortable. The conversation continued with the other responding that he was “only 12” and questioning why another kid their age asking questions would make the child uncomfortable.
My friend noticed the questioning (a sign of grooming) and quickly booted the player out of the game.
But, not every kid is lucky enough to be in protected by an Online Shepherd.
How can kids stay safe online this summer?
- Make sure your child knows to never, ever post any personal or identifying information online. This is the biggest thing. Sharing personal and private information gives strangers unprecedented access to children. Kids should never use their real name online. In addition, when assigning a name for their cell phone, it should never be their name either.
- Never share social security numbers of school ID information.
- Don’t disclose your personal interests. Sharing what kids enjoy sets the stage for predators to converse with them and befriend them with “shared” interests to gain their trust.
- Don’t allow apps access to private information. Often, when kids download apps, they must agree to that the app has access to their personal information. Don’t give the app permission. If the app requires it in order to download, then it’s not an app that should go on a child’s device.
- Stay out of chat rooms. I think chat rooms are extremely dangerous children — it’s where predators lurk and groom their victims. If someone asks a child to create a private chat, refuse. Why would any child go into a private chat room? There’s absolutely no reason … that is an unsafe place.
- Remind children if they receive messages from strangers on social media to tell an adult. If a message makes them feel cautious or uncomfortable, report it. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Never check-in on social media and share locations.
Do you want more tips and information on how to keep your kids safe online? Join our Digital Citizen home program today and keep your kids safe.