Parental Tips

5 Tips from an Investigator to Keep Your Kids Cyber Safe

This Cyber Monday we wanted to bring you advice to help keep you and your family cyber safe. We consulted with Investigator Maureen McClanahan of Christiansburg Police Department. She also works part-time with The Safe Surfin’ Foundation. Here was Investigator McClanahan’s advice:

When it comes to our kids and technology, parents across the globe are feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed on knowing how to best safeguard them from harmful predators lurking online.

Many ask questions such as: what apps are appropriate, how do I monitor them, should I monitor them, and what the heck is Among Us all about? We hear you and want to give you a little piece of mind as we enter into the holiday season, and especially on this cyber Monday. Continue reading to learn 5 Tips to keeping your kids #CyberSafe.

5 Tips from an Investigator to Keep Your Kids Cyber Safe

No portable devices in their bedroom or the bathroom.

If you remember when computers first came out, we were all educated to always have them set up in common areas in the home. This way children were less likely to use the computer inappropriately as parents walked by frequently. That has not changed! When children are allowed privacy with their devices then they are more likely to be victimized or possibly offend.

As an ICAC Investigator most of the cases involving sexting (when a minor sends a naked image of themselves to another minor) or sexual solicitation (involving an adult) occurs when the child is either in their bedroom or in the bathroom.

They know they will have privacy in those locations and are less likely to be caught, or to even think twice before they act on the requests of sending naked images. That’s why keeping devices somewhere visible is so important.

Install Monitoring Apps & Weekly Check In

Having a parental monitoring app installed on your child’s device helps you better protect them from being bullied, sexually exploited and even trafficked. Having a more proactive role in your child’s life is not a violation of their privacy (there is no privacy when they are exposed to the whole world).

Many times children are not aware that they are being groomed or that a stranger account who says they are a child are really an adult, but a parent most likely would and could stop victimization from occurring when seeing messages in real time. Monitoring apps are still technology and can’t catch everything, so I still suggest checking your child’s device and having a conversation about any issues should occur on a weekly basis.

Utilize Screen Time Restrictions

When Apple updated their iOS and installed screentime settings on all Apple devices it really saved parents a lot of time and headache on placing safeguards for their children on their devices. Shortly after Androids followed.

These restrictions really take out the argument of telling children to turn the device off, of having unwanted apps being installed without your permission, inappropriate camera use (can only use with your password) and setting up appropriate times the device is even accessible.

Technology can be so helpful to keep our kids safe but you have to take the time and actually set these settings. The tools can be very effective, but we have to actually use them to gain the benefit.

Photo Vault & Calculator Apps used to hide photos

These apps sometimes look like calculators, padlocks, or a vault. They are advertised to adults in the event they are dating more than one person, to help them hide sexy photos in these secret apps.

Children have learned about these apps as well, hiding photos that they have received through apps such as SnapChat or other social media. I’ve had kids talk about the apps being used to store inappropriate apps in order to expose someone later on or to harass and exploit them to do things against their will.

Online Gaming

If an online game is attracting children to play, then I can guarantee it is also attracting child predators. Before allowing your child to play any game that requires access to the internet in order to play then make sure you take the time to learn security settings, specifically chatting (how to disable or set to friends only), friend requests, keeping their profile private, and only allow them to play when you are present.

The best way I have learned as a parent to an 8 year old is to sit down and play the game. Not only am I learning how the game works, if it’s appropriate for him, but we are also bonding and talking about the game and all its features. This encourages future dialogue in case something negative happens, he knows he can come and talk to me about it.

It’s a tough time to be a parent, trying to learn how to navigate through the world of technology and our children. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel because it’s too overwhelming to learn it all.

Instead, have the tough conversations, educate and empower your kids on the dangers and how to make safe decisions for themselves. Finally set up guidelines and expectations that you have when accessing technology in a way that they understand and agree to.

If you want to follow Investigator McClanahan’s safety tips, follow her on Instagram or check out The Safe Surfin’ Foundation website. Have a happy Cyber Monday finding all the deals online, but know the best investment you can make today is in the safety of your family online.