As I was reading the news today, the headline “Predatory woman scams boys” grabbed the immediate attention. Here we have a woman with a fake identity chatting up boys with the hormones raging through their systems in order to obtain sensitive information like credit card details. Police confirmed that there was a groping side to her activities. (Read the article here >>>)
While it is great that children are able to be connected through sites such as Facebook I am also convinced that parents have an important role to play in keeping our youngsters safe. I know for a fact that there are several children that are between 6 and 10 that already have their own Facebook profile, despite all the age restrictions. My own boys come home and want a Facebook profile because “everyone else in my class has one.” Once children seemed happy with sites like “club penguin” specifically designed for our young ones and others like that. But no, they need a Facebook page. I will not go into the question whether or not a parent should allow their kid to break age restrictions, as the same would apply to movies, tv programmes, computer games and more. What I do think is that in all this, as parents we have a responsibility to keep an eye on what your kids are doing. I admit that it becomes harder and harder, with mobile and smart phones at every decreasing ages, bit it does not seem to make sense to just let our children go out there unattended, unprotected and basically left to their own devices.
The news story confirmed such a viewpoint:
“It comes down to parents knowing what their children are doing on Facebook and who they are talking to,” he said.
NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said it was a rare case.
“It is fairly uncommon for an adult female to groom and scam teenage boys. More effective scammers understand the needs of the victim and play on those. With teenage boys, they want to be liked by teenage girls, so that makes it a target,” he said.
Parents should make sure children were aware that scammers operated online, he said.
I previously posted on similar subject matter:
Here are tips to enhance your safety and more importantly that of your child:
- Most importantly be open and make sure your child can talk with you, make sure it knows it is being loved
- Be clear in the agreements with your child in what is and what is not allowed and what to do in case of an incident
- Explain the risks of online sexual solicitation and the risk of talking to strangers
- Discuss the risks of meeting face to face and be very cautious about it
- Do some checks first before you give your ok
- Make sure meetings if any are in public places
- Make sure that you know where your children are
- Teach your children to be very careful with sending and posting personal information
- Install firewall, filtering software, anti spy ware, anti virus software and monitor what is going on on the internet
- Be open about that and discuss your worries
- Encrypt wireless networks at home
- Discourage downloading games and other media that could contain undesired content
- Supervise contacts and friends the same way as in real life
- Monitor on line activity of your children regularly
- Set security settings high of your software (windows, browser and email) high
- Understand and approve used screen names and ensure they don’t guve away too much private details
- Make sure that children post only what they and you are comfortable with when others see it
- Discuss the need of posting a photo in profiles
- Discuss that flirting with strangers can be risky and even dangerous
- Trust your gut feeling if you are suspicious or uncomfortable
- Report suspected behavior
Read the rest of the post here >>>
Besides that I recommend you reread my 85 tips for staying safe online here >>>. In relation to social networking and child safety I posted the following tips
- You don’t need to use you real name at all times, nicknames are an accepted practice and can help protecting your privacy for instance in chat rooms and on forums and newsgroups. Consider using a web based email address (www.gmail.com, www.hotmail.com etc).
- Think carefully before giving out personal information during IM, in chat rooms, newsgroups etc. You don’t always (very often if not always) know who you are talking to.
- Remember that people can change their identity or lie about who they really are.
- If you want to meet someone you met in a chat room in person, talk on the phone first, meet in a public place and let someone else know what you are doing.
- Be careful what you post on your profile at for instance myspace, facebook, hi5, hyves, and consider your privacy options.
- If your sharing photos online, check the meta data you are sending out and if necessary remove it. Depending on the camera you used there could be private information on there you may not want to share.
- Bloggers and tweeters, keep in mind that people have gotten in trouble about what they post with third parties and employers. Think before you hit the publish button or consider blogging anonymously.
KEEPING THE KIDS SAFE
- Place the computer where you can see it.
- Set clear rules, which may include time spent online and what is and is not allowed online. Punishing inappropriate behavior afterward. may not be the best solution if there were no clear rules upfront. Banning your child from the net may lead to them finding ways to access the internet out of sight and your control (at a friend’s place, the library an internet cafe).
- Make sure you know the password of your children so you can check what they have been doing and where they have been.
- Don’t scare your children away from the net and explain that like in the real world there are some fruit loops out there that they may run into.
- Take an interest in your child’s activities online, even if you don’t feel confident about your own abilities, encourage them to open communication.
- Encourage your child to report anything out of the ordinary or unpleasant they encounter online an be seen to follow up on it.
- Do not be intimidated by technology, ASK IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. The dumbest question is the one not asked.
- Don’t overreact. Not every incident is as serious as it may appear. Try to determine if incidents are of an isolated, coincidental nature and best to be ignored or a signal of potential trouble that needs closer monitoring. (Keep the communication open see 5.)
- Keep credit cards away / out of reach of your children, you could end up with unpleasant surprises.
- Check whether any chat rooms your children use are moderated (for instance the Penquin Club). This means that the site has arrenged for someone overlooking the chat sessions and throw anyone out that is a nuisance.
- Discourage your kids from having one-on-one conversations as opposed to addressing the complete chat room.
- Instant messaging = one-on-one and if you find your child doing that, make sure you know who the person on the other side is. Preferably allow this only with people they and you know.
- Consider installing a content filtering system or join with an ISP that tries to filter websites. Remember that there are no 100% fail safe systems so don’t get complacent or a false sense of security.
- If possible check your child’s surf history and keep in mind that computer savvy kids may be able to get rid of what they don’t want you to see. If you are of a paranoid nature, consider having all your child’s email coming through an email address under your control.
- Don’t think children are just curious about sex and porn, there is a wealth of stuff out there that will be interesting to the explorative youngster including things such as drugs, hacking an cracking, illegal downloading, and even things like making bombs.
- Don’t isolate talks with your children from the rest of life, it is all part of the same bigger picture of safety in general.
- The internet may be able to assist your child in learning about a lot of things including life but IT CAN NOT BE A REPLACEMENT FOR PARENTAL GUIDANCE.
- Don’t automatically assume that inappropriate behaviour is your child’s fault. Building trust and confidence may well be more constructive.
- Keep yourself informed about what is going on on the net.
- Don’t forget that mobile phones may have internet access as well. If your child has a mobile, make sure you set similarly clear ground rules.
Stay safe everybody