10 Expert Tips for Protecting Children from Online Sexual Predators
As a parent, keeping your child safe is always a top priority. In today’s digital world, online safety has become a major concern, particularly when it comes to protecting children from online sexual predators and exploitation.
We’ve been at the heart of educating parents and protecting kids from sexual abuse and exploitation for a decade. As we celebrate turning 10 this year, we’ve compiled our top 10 tips to help keep your family safe.
Top 10 Tips for Protecting Kids from Online Sexual Predators
1 Know passwords: One of the best ways to protect your child online is to have access to their passwords. This is especially helpful in locating missing children, and trying to identify predators. It also allows your kids to know that in your home you have an open door and open device policy.
If this feels like too much of an invasion of privacy for your family – try this: Write down everyone’s passwords on pieces of paper, and seal them in a family envelope. Make clear that the envelope will only ever be opened in the case of an emergency, investigation, or grave concern – not for regular account checks. This maintains a level of autonomy and privacy (especially for older teens), but also safeguards the family with access to critical information if it’s ever needed.
2 Monitor online activity – use an app: Another important tip is to monitor your child’s online activity using an app or software program. There are several options available that can help you track your child’s online activity, including what websites they visit, who they communicate with, and what they say. Monitoring apps like Bark will alert you to any potentially dangerous or inappropriate activity on your child’s device, giving you peace of mind.
3 Sign a contract: Signing a contract with your child outlining rules and guidelines for online activity is another effective way to keep them safe. This contract should include rules about what sites and apps are allowed, what behavior is appropriate, and consequences for breaking the rules. Our two-way family contract outlines expectations for both kids and parents, and encourages families to read, discuss and sign together.
4 No devices in bedroom: It’s also important to keep devices out of your child’s bedroom, particularly at night. This will help reduce the risk of your child being exposed to inappropriate content or online predators while they are unsupervised.
A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 70% of adolescents reported sleeping with their phone in their bedroom, and 50% reported using their phone after going to bed. Having a “no devices in bedrooms” policy can help eliminate the opportunity and temptation for inappropriate or dangerous encounters online.
5 Never friend anyone you don’t know IRL: Teach your child to never accept friend requests from anyone they do not know in real life. Predators often use fake profiles to gain access to children online, and it’s important to teach your child how to spot and avoid these risks.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 73% of online child exploitation reports they receive involve social networking sites. This eye-opening figure highlights the importance of teaching children to ONLY connect online with people they know and have met in the real world.
6 Create an open dialogue – don’t be afraid to talk about the hard subjects: Encouraging open communication with your child about online safety is essential. Teach your child about body boundaries and consent from a young age, and don’t be afraid to talk about uncomfortable topics. The more you talk with your child about these issues, the more comfortable they will be coming to you with concerns or questions.
7 Pause before you post: Encourage your child to think before they post anything online. Once something is posted online, it can be very difficult to remove, and it’s important to teach your child about the long-term consequences of their online behavior.
A survey conducted by Common Sense Media found that 39% of teens report that they have posted something online that they later regretted.
But this tip doesn’t just apply to impulsive teens and tweens. Parents should also pause before posting. Consider your child’s privacy and the benefit/risk of posting their photo or personal information online.
8 Charge devices in common areas: Make sure your child charges their devices in a common area, such as the living room or kitchen. This will help ensure that you can keep an eye on their online activity while they are using their devices.
9 If games don’t have parental controls, you can’t play: Be sure to only allow young children to play online games that have parental control settings. These controls can help limit access to inappropriate content and help you monitor your child’s online activity.
According to a study conducted by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, nearly 60% of children between the ages of 8 and 12 who play online games do so on sites that are not intended for children.
10 Do a weekly device check – it’s smart, not snooping: Finally, it’s a good idea to conduct a weekly check on your child’s devices. This will help you keep track of what your child is doing online and can help you spot any potential risks or dangers early on. It also opens the door for important conversations that may not happen otherwise.
In today’s world, online education and safety is a necessity – not something you can afford to ignore. If you’re ready to go deeper, grab your copy of our free ebook!
With C.R.A.M., you’ll learn practical tips to keep your kids safe online, how to talk to kids about predators by age group, how to recognize the signs of grooming, what to do if a predator contacts your child, and you’ll get device settings and safety tips for popular online games. Download your free copy today!