Even if they use some type of social network or not, parents must understand the dangers involved with social networking and develop plans to help their children avoid dangerous situations. From sexual predators to cyberbullying, kids can encounter a variety of situations while using social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. Below are 5 important things that any parents should be aware of relating to social network dangers.
Sexual Predators Online
As of 2008, there were over 644,865 registered sex offenders in the United States. Their internet use is not regulated so there is a possibility of them using social networks to find and peruse their victims. 16 percent of teens considered meeting someone that they have only talked with online and 8 percent have actually met up with someone they met on the internet. The problem is, teens are sometimes willing to meet strangers. Predators will often use a variety of tools to attract their targets, including money, gifts, phone calls, or offline mail.
Try to avoid leaving your children at home without supervision, especially during the summer months.
Many sexual predators avoid public places and will target kids that are home alone.
You never know who may be targeting your children, so your best bet is to get your children out of the home and somewhere public where they have some sort of supervision.
Even if it means you have to drop your kids off at a movie or a local water park, helping your children get away from the computer and outside can be a much safer alternative compared to leaving them at home.
A recent study done by the American Psychological Association found that of all internet offenders only 5 percent pretended to be teenagers. Most of the time teens met with offenders more than 1 time. They also found that teens who engaged in risky behaviors like maintaining friend lists with people they did not know were much more likely to receive online sexual solicitations. The problem is, most teens are still not as concerned about the risks of sharing information and photos to the public.
Many social networks like Facebook and Twitter allow several options for maintaining your privacy. Make sure your children’s accounts have the proper settings to avoid strangers from viewing their profiles and information.
Also make sure your children are properly educated as to the dangers of adding and talking with people that may seem like a friend but in reality can be a sexual predator.
It’s Not Just the Predators
Unfortunately it may be more difficult to monitor your child’s online activities than you think. 63 percent of teenagers know how to hide what they do online from their parents, and 32 percent of teens admitted to clearing the browsing history. Even though they may not be doing anything suspicious and they are just trying to not let you get involved in their private life, this sort of behavior can make it very easy for predators to come into a child’s life without any danger of being caught or told on. Develop strict rules, like a time limit on internet usage or parental software. Also consider keeping the computer in a very public place like the kitchen or family room.
Parents cannot ignore the fact that sexual predators are online and using social networks to take advantage of unsuspecting children and teens. Children must be educated about the potential dangers they might encounter but even that may not be enough. Whatever the situation, stay informed and alert and don’t be afraid to step in and take control of the situation.
- About the Author:
Parker Boyack is a writer for MyCollegesandCareers.com. My Colleges and Careers helps people determine if an online education is right for them and helps them search for online degrees that can help them reach their goals.
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