Fort Huachuca’s Community Health Promotion Council, in partnership with the FBI, presented two sessions of Cyber Safety & Security Training for adults, to provide expert advice on keeping themselves and their children safe on the Internet, at Murr Community Center on Tuesday.
Today’s technology has revamped the concept of communication, relying on texting, downloading, online gaming or blogging. It may be innocent fun for your children, but are they, or you, aware of the threats that are beyond the keyboard?
During the 90 minute training session, Agent in Charge David Bodily, Sierra Vista FBI, pointed out the signs to watch for, how to react to, and how to minimize the chances of potential online vulnerabilities for children.
Cyberbullying — defined as the verbal harassment that occurs during online activities and cell phone texting — has become a growing concern, according to Bodily.
As stated in the FBI’s Parent Guide to Internet Safety, “Children online are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are online around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings online trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.”
“The Internet has become the new playground, but without a closing time, leaving children to their electronic devices 24/7,” Bodily said.
Along with cyberbullying, social networking has become a dangerous online concern. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter encourage people to build profiles including pictures, personal information, even journal-type entries. The problem is that these sites are appealing to child sexual predators too.
According to Bodily, one in three teens plan to meet someone they met online, in person. Social networking sites allow predators to “exploit” the posted information, “groom” the child, and persuade a face-to-face meeting with a stranger.
To keep children safe when using any online activities, Bodily recommends:
- monitoring children’s Internet use, keep devices in open rooms and keep hand-held devices on the kitchen table at night
- teach children not to disclose personal information online and why it is important
- watch for risky behaviors such as an immediate withdrawal from electronics or from Family or friends
- install and monitor age-appropriate privacy settings, parent controls and firewall software
- encourage children to choose appropriate screen names and strong passwords
- visit websites with your children and exchange ideas about what information may or may not be risky
- teach children how people who want to harm children get close to them by using online information and gaining a child’s trust
- check your children’s profiles and what they are posting online.
“Relate the Internet to a public bulletin board in a hallway,” Bodily said. “Make sure they have the right perception of what they are doing online. If it is on the Internet, it is not private.”
Don’t forget about cell phones, which often have the same fully functional Internet access as a computer. According to Bodily, 78 percent of teens 12 – 17 have cell phones.
In the end, Bodily explains that, as a parent, the best thing to do is maintain an open line of communication with your children regarding the cyber world. Allow them to feel comfortable speaking about anything that seems wrong or confusing, and to report it to a known adult.