If you truly want to keep your kids safe in the online world, you need to be committed to learning what dangers exist, how cyberstalkers operate and what measures you can take to protect your kids.
What is cyberstalking?
Cyberstalkers use technology to cause others to fear for their safety. They invade the privacy of their victims and cause emotional devastation. The fact that they can do so from a geographical distance makes it hard to identify them.
What methods do they use?
Cyberstalkers may release fake or confidential information to embarrass someone. They may send threatening emails to an individual or hack a social media account and send offensive messages to others. Sending sexual photos of someone to friends or family members is common. They may create fake social media profiles to target someone.
Kids don’t understand the dangers
Social media platforms are the stalking grounds of cyberstalkers but kids are unaware of the dangers. They will often not even enable their social media privacy settings so anyone can view their profiles.
Any information your kids post can be used against them. Parents should make sure they use their privacy settings. It is so easy for a stranger to like a photo and start following a kid, which opens the door to abuse.
Beyond standard safety measures you can take, such as talking about the dangers of engaging with strangers, here are some additional safety tips.
You can install your own GPS tracker on your kids’ phones so you know where they are and who they’re talking to. Spy Phone is free tracker app software you can use to monitor your kids 24/7 and there is even a panic button for emergencies.
Make sure your kids know they mustn’t share personal information online. Teach them to always think about the possible consequences before posting anything.
Teach kids to keep their devices safe. They shouldn’t allow others to borrow their cell phones, tablets or laptops. It is easy for someone to install a tracking device to monitor a target.
Make sure location tagging on your kids’ phones is turned off. You don’t want cyberstalkers to be able to access location data, such as a street address or the name of a school in photos your kids post on social media.
Your kids need to know that if cyberstalkers get access to their online calendars, they will know exactly where they will be and at what time. They should always make online calendars private or not use them at all.
Explain what type of behavior is unacceptable as your kids may not be sure of the boundaries. InternetSafety has a web-rules contract that you and your kids can sign.
Keep the lines of communication open with your kids and you will often have a good sense when something is wrong. It is often kids who don’t have open communication with parents and whose parents are not uninvolved in their lives that are more at risk.
If you teach them about online dangers just as you do about real-world dangers, they will understand more about what it is okay to do online and what isn’t.
Don’t be afraid to be the ‘bad guy.’ Your kids may initially resent you if you set rules and boundaries but they are likely to eventually understand that you’re only doing it to protect them. They can always blame their crazy strict mom or dad and still be thought of as ‘cool’ by their peers without having to deal with online situations they can’t cope with.