Tips Help Parents Protect Kids From Sex Predators Stalking Social Media

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A USA Today story reports an increase in children being victimized online. Parents can take advantage of these steps to protect their family.

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Parents have the biggest influence on their kids’ behaviors, more than their friends, school, or religious institution. Put that influence to use.

Parents are often overwhelmed, and trying to manage how their kids use the Internet is one more time-consuming task. In fact, 34% of kids never receive advice from their parents on how they should or should not use the Internet.

A USA Today report, which shows an increase in children being victimized online, emphasizes the need for parents to better monitor how their kids use the Internet.

The March 1 article, “Sex predators stalk social media,” stated that the number of calls to report child exploitation online doubled in 2010. CyberTipline, the nation’s hotline for such abuse, received 223,374 reports last year. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children pinpointed the soaring use of social networks, webcams, online games, and smartphones as a major contributor to the uptick in children being targeted online.

“Parents are often overwhelmed with work and their kids’ activities, and trying to manage how their kids use the Internet is one more time-consuming task,” said Ron DeHaas, president of Covenant Eyes. “In fact, 34% of kids never receive advice from their parents on how they should or should not use the Internet.”

That can be a real threat, especially when a new website is launched every 2 seconds.

Here are five tips to help keep your family safe online:

  •     Talk to your children. Parents have the biggest influence on their kids’ behaviors, more than their friends, school, or religious institution. Put that influence to use. Set aside times to talk to your kids, but also be prepared to talk to your child or teen on the fly when opportunities present themselves. Talking isn’t preaching. Be willing to listen, too.
  •     Use software, like Covenant Eyes, to monitor how your kids use the Internet and don’t hide it. Recent advances by Covenant Eyes provide reports that rate web pages, such as T for Teen and M for Mature, similar to how movies and video games are rated. Use the reports to learn about your kids’ interests, curiosity, and their surfing habits.
  •     Filters are helpful in blocking inappropriate content, but choose wisely. Some filters over block or they don’t block sites called anonymizers, which is one of the most common ways teens defeat filters. Covenant Eyes has a patent-pending on blocking anonymizer sites. Plus, parents can use the rating system to decide the sensitivity of the Covenant Eyes filter for every member of their family. That allows families to choose what sites can be visited based on the age of the child or adult using the Internet.
  •     Limit the amount of time and the times of day the Internet may be used. When kids are limited they use their time online more wisely, and are less likely to waste time searching out of boredom, which can lead to inappropriate browsing. Parents should use a filter (like the one offered by Covenant Eyes) to choose the times of day and the amount of time their kids can be online.
  •     Do the basics. Keep computers in an open room. Don’t provide Internet access or Internet accessible devices in a child or teen’s bedroom. Use parental controls, and if a device doesn’t provide or allow parental controls to be downloaded, don’t buy it for them. Covenant Eyes provides monitoring software for iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad.

To learn more about protecting your family online, download a free copy of Parenting the Internet Generation. Or take advantage of a free Internet safety webinar,5 Hidden Dangers Facing You and Your Family Right Now.

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Sam Black
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