In late July there were news stories about a local dad (part of a larger "vigilante" group) baiting suspected child predators and exposing them online. Five days ago there was an article in our local Dallas Post featuring a discussion with a Luzerne County detective regarding local children who were lured to upload photos to YouTube.This past weekend, CNN provided parents with "the truths about online predators".
Stories of this nature are not "new" but certainly news worthy. Regardless of the statistics you'll read regarding the likelihood, this type of event CAN hit close to home and there are simple measures you can use to minimize the risk of a child meeting an online predator.
Please keep in mind that these suggestions are purely based on my professional career (former tech exec), personal experiences (father of 11), and web-based content. There is plenty more information available on the web. One suggested site to start is https://internetsafely101.org.
8 simple steps one can take:
1) Set up parental controls on all devices and establish the appropriate age use for each device.
2) Check (frequently) the privacy settings of the sites to be visited to best protect your child's profile & activity.
3) Place your computer at home in a common area so the screen can be easily seen.
4) Try to keeps your kid's usernames/screen names as anonymous as possible and try to avoid having them share personal information (address, phone #, etc).
5) Kids can easily misuse cameras available to them (ex. computer, digital, mobile device). Monitor their use (and sharing) as best as you can.
6) Educate your kids (and yourself) on the proper usage behaviors required to reduce their risk. Follow up (trust & verify) by monitoring their messages, emails, texts, posts either physically, joining the same social networks or utilizing available monitoring software. Everything I have read implies that kids (under 18) should not expect that everything they do on a computer/gaming/mobile device is personal & confidential. I'm not an attorney so take this advice with a grain of salt.
7) Establish times of the day when your kid(s) can access the internet by configuring your router or internet provided software settings.
8) Learn the abbreviations kids use nowadays to assist you with monitoring their messages. You will be very surprised to learn what some of these abbreviations mean or imply.
While not inclusive, I hope some of these tips aid in your efforts to protect your child from an online predator. I know, easier said than done. While you might feel like it's intrusive, it's not. We are talking about kids not adults. Emails, posts, videos, photos, tweets, messages, etc. are all an open invite to information about your child, your home, and those closest to them.