YouTube personality Coby Persin recently released a shocking video showing just how dangerous social media can become for children and how easy it is for sex offenders to connect with kids online using a fake profile.
In the video, Persin creates a Facebook profile posing as a 15 year old boy and with parents’ consent, befriends 3 young girls, ages 12-14 online. After chatting online with the girls for a few days, Persin asks each of them to hang out with him alone: One at a park, one at her home and the last was told to get in his car. For each meeting, Persin brought at least one of the girls’ parents along so that if their daughter did go through with the meeting, a parent would be there to witness the act and be able to say a few words.
As a parent, the results of Persin’s social experiment are downright frightening but the video is powerful in its message of education because these things do really happen and children are at risk.
According to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are over 750,000 registered sex offenders in the US, and it is more important than ever for children to receive proper education regarding online safety.
Below are a few tips to help keep your kids safe online:
1. Talk With Your Kids About The Internet and Social Media Sites
Start and continue to have an open dialogue with your children about the benefits and dangers of the Internet and social media sites. Make it a priority to show an interest in your kids online activities, find out what their favorite websites to visit are, and any online games they may play. Don’t be afraid to ask your children who they are talking to online and what they are talking about because it could help to prevent them from getting into a dangerous situation.
2. Setup Online Guidelines For Your Children
Agree on family guidelines for using the Internet with your kids and post them near the family computer as a reminder. Ensure that your children know to never share personal information online and that they should never chat with strangers online. Also let them know they should come to you if there is any online activity or contact made by a stranger or acquaintance that makes them feel uncomfortable.
3. Monitor Your Kids Internet Activity
Take advantage of parental control software, such as Safe Eyes or Net Nanny, that helps parents manage their kids Internet usage and experience. In just a few minutes, inappropriate websites can be blocked and the amount of time that your kids use the Internet can be restricted.
4. Keep The Computer or Tablet In A Common Room
According to the FBI’s Parent Guide To Internet Safety, by keeping the family computer or tablet in a common room in the house, not in the child’s bedroom, makes it much more difficult for an online-sex offender to communicate with your child when another member of the household can see the activity ad chatting taking place.
5. Be An Internet Savvy Parent
Many of the skills required to be a great parent online are those required to be a great parent off-line: encouragement, patience, respect, boundary setting and time. If technology is not your thing, rest assured that it is not that difficult to grasp some fundamentals and get up to speed! With a positive approach, learning new information about the technologies that surround us can be entertaining and educational. Sites like Mashable and Gizmodo can help you to keep up on the latest trends.