A Dangerous Gift
Just across the pond, five men and a teenage boy were arrested for attacking seven victims ranging in age from 13 to 15. This gang organized parties on social media to lure in their victims.
While this happened in England, similar situations like this happen in the United States. Child predators are manipulative and smart. So this year, if you are planning on giving your child the gift of a device, please determine your boundaries before the wrapping paper hits the floor.
Because technology is constantly changing, commit to yourself that you will stay current. Your children, it’s their stage of life, are going to try and play cat and mouse games with you. Resolve to guide them in healthy device usage.
Technology can be helpful and harmful. I’m going to focus on just a few rules that you can have in place to guard against child exploitation. The list is not exhaustive. Check into other resources. Please custom this to suit your family because you are the first line of defense.
Here are some ideas in regards to the device:
- Charge devices in YOUR bedroom. Don’t allow the child to have the device in their room, especially at night. (Nothing happens good at night anyway)
- Make sure their accounts are set to private
- Install and configure filtering software
- Limit screen time
- Have devices used in a public area of the home
Listed below are things to advise your child on in regards to acceptable behavior:
- NEVER send a compromising picture (These can NEVER be deleted.)
- NEVER post a compromising picture (This can impact your future job prospects.)
- NEVER meet face to face with someone they met online
- NEVER provide location specific information (Ex. address, school name)
- NEVER give out phone numbers
- NEVER participate in cyber bullying
Subterfuges to look for when checking device:
- Secret message apps
- Innocuous apps that are really a cover for something else
- Be aware of browsing history
Social media is a tool used to exploit children. Fight to keep your child safe. Teach them that what they see online, isn’t always what it appears to be. Guide them to believe that their worth is made up of more than just how many likes or friends they have online. Use your life experience to impart the wisdom, that comes with age, that the social-validation feedback loop isn’t the be all, end all.
If you do decide that you are going to allow your child to have a device this year, please determine your boundaries before the present is received. That way, when your limits are being pressed upon, it will be easier to remain firm in your resolve to stick with your guidelines.
Keep the long view in front of you. The goal should be something along the lines of independent, responsible device usage.
This is the time of year for gifts. They might not appreciate it now, or even be happy about it, but healthy device usage is a valuable skill you can teach your child.
Attempting to stay safe online,