Crime Prevention Corner: Parents need to monitor their kids’ internet activity

Ron Craig, Crime Prevention/Community Policing Officer

        None of us knows what may be next with the COVID-19 pandemic, but we’d be foolish to think it’s nearing its end.
        We would likewise be foolish to think there’s no chance schools may need to close again or modify instruction to include at least some schoolwork from home via the internet.
        Although internet safety for kids is not a topic limited to times of school instruction from home, its importance absolutely magnifies when such activity becomes necessary.
        Parents have enormous responsibilities. This must include monitoring their youngsters’ internet activity and parents’ need to resist their kids’ pleas for privacy in their internet endeavors.
        It’s easy to give in when a youngster asks to be left alone when he or she is on the internet. No one promised parenting would be easy.
        There is really no age that is too young to practice cyber safety. Kids grow up fast these days, and what was normal for us when we were a certain age has likely become a reality much sooner for today’s kids.
        At the very top of parents’ concerns should be online predators. Adults and even other youngsters can entice kids of just about any age into sexual and abusive exploits and encounters.
        According to the latest FBI statistics, girls make up 78 percent of kids who fall into these traps set by predators, who are 82 percent male. We should also not forget that 22 percent of the victims are boys. Eighteen percent of online predators are females.
        Cyberbullying is another issue that needs to be monitored by parents. It is reported that almost 34 percent of kids ages 12-17 have been victims of cyberbullying some time during those years. The same statistics show 11.5 percent of youngsters have admitted they have bullied other kids over the internet or via some other form of electronic device (cell phone/texting, etc.).
        Another internet issue for youngsters is being exposed to inappropriate content, such as violent or sexually explicit materials.
        How can parents deal with these important issues? Here are some tips:
        1. Make sure websites are secure. If the web address starts with “http” and not “https,” it’s not a secure website.
        2. Guard personal information. Do not let your youngster use a full first and last name on the internet. The same goes for Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers. Most importantly, never let a youngster share his or her photograph online.
        3. Set up parental controls. You shouldn’t have to purchase additional software to do this. Your computer should already have parental controls built into its web browser, hardware and software. Most, or at least some, of these controls can be found under the “settings” portion.
        4. Keep your computer’s software updated. I agree automatic updates can be a pain, but they are especially important if you have youngsters using a computer.
        5. From time to time, check your kids’ browsing history.
        These tips are but a few of the steps you can take to help ensure a safe cyber environment for your youngsters. Check the internet yourself for additional information on cyber security for youngsters.
        This article is a public service from the Crime Prevention Division of the Lake Township Police Department. Township residents may obtain further information on crime prevention and public safety topics by contacting Ron Craig, crime prevention specialist/community policing officer, at 419-481-6354.


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