Cyber Safety Begins with Parents

September 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I found this article on Google and I think it is just amazing. It is one of the few articles about how to keep your kids safe that gives you actual toold that you can use. Take a look and then tell me what you think.

Three key messages were reinforced for a room full of parents attending a cyber-bullying awareness program Wednesday night:

Children need parents to be their parents, not their friends.
Don’t believe “my kids would never …”
It’s the parents’ responsibility to monitor their children’s cellphone and Internet use.
Naperville Police Det. Richard Wistocki, of the Computer Crimes Unit, presided over a three-hour presentation in the Naperville City Council chambers. About 80 parents attended the program, and several mothers gave testimonials of how their children were negatively impacted by cyber-bullying and cyber-predators.

The event, which was sponsored by the Exchange Club, was the 11th Annual Keeping Kids Safe program. This edition was titled Keeping Our Children Safe Online.

“We want you to know when kids are out there thinking private things, talking about private things, it doesn’t always stay private,” Wistocki said. “When you give access to an awesome device (cellphone) like this, it’s like giving them the keys to the car. … We are giving them technology without any constraints.”

Many children are savvy and understand about online predators, Wistocki said, yet they still send information out to the world through file-sharing services, video, live chat and texts — and some of that information might be used later to hurt them.

A chilling example of how children can hide information from parents was detailed.

Bonnie Waltmire’s daughter Hilary seemed to be a happy girl. She had just turned 16. Mother and daughter had a close relationship. Waltmire thought she knew everything about her daughter. But on Oct. 23, 2007, Waltmire’s life would change forever.

Recalling the events of that day, Waltmire said she thought to herself how beautiful her Hilary looked as she was walking home from the bus after school. She kissed her daughter on the forehead and told her she’d be home in about an hour. When she returned, she found that her daughter had hanged herself.

A group of girls allegedly used Hilary’s boyfriend’s phone to send a text her, one that said he no longer wanted to date her. After Bonnie Waltmire examined her daughter’s MySpace page and other sites, she realized how troubled her daughter had been.

“We found all kinds of examples of bullying, of her being harassed and of her being depressed,” she said.

Waltmire said she and her daughter ate dinner together every night, yet she had no idea that her daughter was living a much different life than the one she thought she knew.

Parents often don’t want to violate a child’s privacy, but Wistocki said that if a parent has bought a phone for a child or provides a computer for a child to use, it’s the parent’s responsibility to check them.

Moms will often say, “I don’t want to violate her privacy,” Wistocki said. “Kids don’t have privacy.”

Wistocki “guaranteed” that within 30 days of attending Wednesday’s program, at least one parent would be calling him seeking assistance. The last time he gave a presentation, he said, it took only 48 hours.

He said parents must check computers and review all the images and videos to see if any inappropriate files show up.

Many children will use file-sharing sites to download music, and those sites are prone to picking up computer viruses or “malware,” Wistocki said. Also, many file-sharing sites have videos that are pornographic in nature and attract predators, which can lead to children either viewing the content or being preyed upon.

Many children use file-hosting sites such as Photobucket to upload photos or videos to sites such as Facebook. Those photos and videos can be stolen and used by others to create fake profiles and e-mail accounts.

And, when using services such as Skype, the other person involved in the chat can be recording it without a child’s knowledge. A friend today on Skype can be an enemy in six months, using the content to harass and harm a child.

Parents should assert to their child that they need to be aware of what the child is doing on the Internet. They should start talking with a child about it early on, and should monitor the child’s online and texting behavior, Wistocki said.

The key is to be tactful when talking with a child, he said. Go about trying to learn what kind of sites they are using in a casual way, maybe asking how to get a song that couldn’t be found on iTunes. Then when the child says, “Oh, I can get it from a file-sharing site,” the parent can take action to remove or block the site — and explain why.

While the hope is that children will make the right decisions, many do things they shouldn’t do. Because of that possibility, parents need to reassure a child that if they are duped by someone older or someone who is not who they say they are, the child needs to tell the parent or someone in authority. Because, as Wistocki said, “A predator may have up to 250 victims in their lifetime.”

One of the mothers attending Wednesday’s program shared the story of what happened to her daughter after she became friendly with a boy on Facebook. The daughter thought she had a Facebook friend named Jesse, who claimed to be 16. After something about the relationship struck the mother as odd, she did some digging and called police. Wistocki determined Jesse was a 45-year-old man recently released from prison, where he’d been doing time for raping a 13-year-old and shooting her father.

“Kids don’t know understand what they are doing,” he said. “Parents need to realize they are not invading their child’s privacy.”

At the beginning of the program, Wistocki noted that in a city of 140,000 people, only about 80 parents were in attendance. He said that was likely because of the belief that “my child would never …”

Sandy Blomker, a Naperville mother of three, acknowledged that parents have a lot of challenges when it comes to these issues. Even though she uses computers at work, she said she was unaware of many of the sites Wistocki talked about.

“I think it is really frightening, what kids are up against,” Blomker said.

Some tips for monitoring a child’s phone or online activity:
On a PC, to check for photos or video:

Go to Start.

Click Search.

Choose Pictures, music, video.

Next choose pictures and video.

Search.

On Windows 7 or a Mac to search for photos or videos:

Click on Finder.

In upper right is the search box.

Type in any of the following:

jpeg

jpg

avi

mpeg

mpg

Computer and cellphone monitoring tools:

SpectorSoft.com

Mymobilewatchdog.com

To check for any social network content using a person’s name:

http://www.pipl.com

Do you monitor your child’s cellphone and Internet use?

Tell us in the comments.

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