How You Can Protect Your Children from Digital Threats

As a parent, you also play a very important role in helping to protect your children. Even after you talk to your kids about online predators and set guidelines, here are steps you can take to ensure that your children are safe from online predators.

  • Monitor online conversations and e-mail accounts. During the creation of your Digital Family Policy, prepare your children for the fact that accounts will be monitored for their safety. Maintain the ability to access your children’s social media and e-mail accounts, and monitor periodically for communication from strangers and inappropriate content from previously trusted contacts.

  • Check online profiles. From time to time, check to see what information your children have made available both to the public via their online profiles as well as to Friends. Ask them to remove private and identifying information, such as full birthdate and phone number.

  • Follow social media age guidelines. Most social networking sites require that children be at least 13 years old to have an account. For your children’s safety, do not let them use sites for which they are not the correct age.

  • Restrict chat room use. Young children should not be allowed to visit chat rooms and use chat functions on websites. As your children get older, you will need to create age specific chat guidelines within your Digital Family Policy to address different chat settings.

  • Keep your home computer in a public location. Keeping your home computer in a highly trafficked area of your home — a family room or kitchen — rather than in a child’s bedroom makes it less likely that they will engage in inappropriate conversations online or visit potentially dangerous websites and chat rooms.

  • Install and use parental controls software and monitoring tools. A variety of tools are available to both monitor the use of your home’s personal computer as well as protect your children through the use of parental control settings.

  • Get hip to cyberslang. Kids have their own crypto-shorthand. Know how to recognize these code words at a glance to help protect your children.

    • A/S/L: A request to share age, sex, and location.

    • ASLP: A request to share age, sex, location and a picture.

    • CD9: Code 9 to indicate that parents are around.

    • CFS: Care for secret?

    • F2F or F/F: A request to meet face to face.

    • FYEO: For your eyes only.

    • GNOC: Get naked on camera.

    • HSWM: Have sex with me.

    • IPN: I’m posting naked.

    • IRL: In real life.

    • K: Kiss.

    • KB: Kiss back.

    • KOL: Kiss on the lips

    • KPC: Keeping parents clueless.

    • LMIRL: Let’s meet in real life

    • NIFOC: Naked in front of computer.

    • NP: Nosey parents; a warning that parents may be nearby.

    • P911: A warning that parents are coming.

    • PAL: A warning that parents are listening.

    • PANB: A warning that parents are nearby.

    • PAW: Parents are watching.

    • POS: A warning that parents are over the shoulder of the person typing.

    • RUMOF: Are you male or female?

    • TAW: A warning that teachers are watching.

    • WTGP: Want to go private? (A request to move to a private chat room.)

    • WUF: Where are you from?

    • WYRN: What’s your real name?

    • 53x: Sex.

  • Keep communicating. According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office, only one-fourth of children nationally who say they received a sexual solicitation online also say that they told a parent about this unwanted communication. Keep lines of communication open and remind your children frequently that they can and should come to you with any concerns about online activity.

  • Watch for warning signs. Here are some warning signs that may indicate that your child is communicating with an online predator. Your child

    • Is withdrawn from the family

    • Is receiving phone calls from an adult you don’t know

    • Has child pornography on his computer

    • Receives mail or packages from someone you don’t know

    • Turns off the monitor quickly or changes screens/tabs when you walk into the room

    • Spends large amounts of time online at night

If your child is the target of an online predator and receives sexually explicit photos or communications, contact your local police. Be sure to document any communication and save files and e-mails to turn over to the police. You can also report possible illegal online activity related to child pornography, predation, or other child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline at 1-800-843-5678.

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