Pages Navigation Menu

Things to do in Orange County for OC Moms

Categories Navigation Menu

What Every Parent MUST know About Cyber Safety

cyber-safety-tips

Imagine you’re on your way to an important meeting. Your boss, supervisor, co-workers, and even friends are in attendance. When you walk in, the quiet noise of chatter instantly stops. You notice that the people in the room are either staring at you or avoiding eye contact. Some are suppressing a laugh or wearing a grin. One of your co-workers even gave you an uncharacteristic wink. You have the very uncomfortable feeling that everyone is talking about you. You take a seat next to your closest friend who gives you a sheepish look, whispers something in your ear and discreetly hands you a piece of paper. You excuse yourself to go to the restroom. Alone, you read the hand-written note. Two minutes ago everything was great; you were just going about your day, now everything is crashing down around you. You are shattered! Your world is instantly changed as you read the note.

Hi, I am Maggie,
I am the biggest whore in town. I will xxxx your xxxx so hard you will xxxxxx. I love your xxxxx. My xxxx is xxxx for you. I love kinky sex with strangers and I will do xxxxxx anywhere, any time. Please call me at xxxxxxxxx. I am the easiest hook up around.

Now, imagine you’re 10 years old and at school. Instead of a note that some of the kids have read, the note written in crayon by a group of other 10 year old girls has been photographed and posted on several social media sites. This note cannot be thrown away to be forgotten. It is out there forever, for anyone to see at any time. Not only has everyone you know seen it, but they believe you have written it. Hundreds of total strangers have also read it. There is no safe place to go. There is no reprieve, it follows you wherever there is a computer or phone or tablet. 10 year olds are not this vulgar and mean you say? Well this happened right here in SOC. None of the parents of the 6 children involved even knew their kids had Instagram. Of course, I do not know who the kids involved were and I made up this letter to match the vulgarity of the real letter I saw at a Cyber-Safety meeting lead by the Cyber Safety Cop, Deputy Clay Cranford.

It was the scariest and most informative meeting I have ever attended. There is a lot that we need to know as parents. I walked out of the meeting overwhelmed but glad I had the information and tools I will need to keep my children safe in the next several years of their lives. For the purposes of this article I will cover Cyber-Bullying, Sexting, How Online Predators Operate and the Tools we need to help our kids. I will try to summarize the most important points and then direct you to additional information, but first here are some must know statistics:

  • Mobile devices are the #1 form of communication.
  • 90% of 4th – 8th graders on social media report viewing cyber-bullying
  • 1 out of 10 children will be bullied online
  • Girls are twice as likely to be a victim of cyber-bullying
  • Bully victims are twice as likely to consider suicide
  • Cyber-bullying doesn’t end on the playground, it is ever- present
  • Children on social media experience non-stop low level stress which can create anxiety issues similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
  •  Children on social media meet and communicate with people (think of having access to everyone on the planet) outside of their parents influence.
  • 90% of Cyber Victims do not tell their parents.
  • The average teen sends 1500 – 1800 texts a month
  • Bullys, mean girls, pedophiles, and others can communicate anonymously online.
  • Common portals to social media include: Facebook, uTube, Minecraft, Call of Duty, Skype, World of Warcraft, Twitter, Vine, and Instagram to name only a few. Just a bogus email will get you in.
  • Sexting is illegal.
  • More than 1/3 of all teens exchange sexual images or messages online.
  • 1 in 10 online predators get caught.
  • 1 in 20 online predators get prosecuted.
  • 2 billion people have access to your kid online.
  • 100% of teens go willingly to meet predators.

If you are not concerned yet, here is the story of Amanda Todd a 15 years who committed suicide after being unable to escape her tormentors. She tells her story in flash cards on uTube.

  • She made one mistake. After being flattered she flashed her breasts on Webcam.
  • One year later, she received a Facebook message from a stranger telling her if she didn’t videotape a show for him, he would send a picture of her breasts to everyone she knew.
  • He knew her name, address, school, relatives, friends, and family’s names.
  • She refused to put on a show. During Christmas break the police showed up at her door at 4am notifying her and her family that her photo was sent to everyone. She lost all her friends.
  • She developed anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. She turned to alcohol and drugs to help relieve some of the stress. She changed schools.
  • One year after that, the guy found her again. He knew her new school and her new friends. He created a Facebook page with her breasts as his profile picture.
  • She lost all her friends a second time. She was constantly taunted. She was alone. She started cutting.
  • She changed schools again but still had no friends.
  • A guy she used to know seduced her.
  • The boy, his girlfriend and 15 others threatened to show up at her new school.
  • The girlfriend and 2 others did show up and beat her in front of the entire school. The beating was filmed and she was left alone on the ground. She left and lay in a ditch. When her dad brought her home, she drank bleach. She survived
  • She read Facebook messages saying she deserved it and “I hope she’s dead”.
  • She moved to another city. She was tagged in pictures of bleach, Clorox and ditches.
  • She no longer left her house or went to school.
  •  She committed suicide.

One mistake online can start a chain of events with permanent, life-altering consequences.

Another way kids are targeting their victims is by creating a web page based on their victim’s name. Say the kids bullying our make-believe Maggie create a page called Maggie_86 or imawhore.com. They go to Maggie’s real Facebook page, copy her profile picture and information for the new page and post comments as if they were Maggie. Kids will also often share passwords with friends or someone they are dating. When the friendship goes bad, an angry friend will sometimes login to the other person’s social media accounts and post negative, often vulgar comments again as if they were that other person. It is character assassination at its worst and it’s our children doing it!
There is also something called a burn page and its sole purpose is to burn someone you don’t like. There are sites out there that are completely anonymous, making these cyber- bullies completely unaccountable for what they do. Ask.fm is one of those sites that are anonymous. The site is hosted in Lakia, out of the jurisdiction of the United States. Do you even know where Lakia is? I had to look it up; it is in Darfur, Sudan, Africa. Kik Messenger is another one. It is a texting app. It is difficult to know who creates the accounts. All you need is an email address and did you know you can create temporary email accounts that will vanish in a given amount of time, even as little as 10 minutes? And it’s not just the bullies we need to worry about; every pedophile in the world has potential access to your child through the internet, even prisoners.
Let’s talk a little bit about how pedophiles operate. There are 747,000 registered sex offenders in the United States and those are only the ones who’ve been caught. 1 in 5 US teenagers who regularly log on to the internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Here is one way a predator may entice your child:

  • He finds your child on the internet
  • He befriends your child by chatting about popular games, music, etc.
  • He flatters, compliments, and starts sending gifts to your child. If he knows your child’s phone is monitored or if your child does not have one, he may even send your child a phone.
  •  Once he has established a good relationship, he attempts to get your child to send a nude photo. He may even pay for the photo or send an expensive gift as a reward.
  • Once he has the photo, he moves on to ask for a video. He may threaten to tell the parents and/or friends about the photo if the video is not made.
  • He uses the video to pressure your child to meet in person. Did you know there are apps that will allow you to connect with strangers within a certain distance from where you are? Say walking distance from your child’s school?

This is some scary stuff!! But let’s talk briefly about one more danger area and then on to what to do about it. The last area I will cover is sexting and this is what you need to know:

  • You were not a perfect child, you made mistakes.
  • Your child is not perfect, s/he will make mistakes.
  • Sexting is a crime.
  • Sending photos of indecent exposure is a misdemeanor.
  • Forwarding nude photos is child pornography (when the photo is of a minor).
  • There are sites that allow a time limit on photos sent. They will disappear after being viewed, however; a savvy tech user will simply take a screen shot of the picture before it evaporates.
  • Civil suits are beginning to crop up suing the parents of sexting kids. This could potentially ruin a family financially.

So now, what the heck do we do about it when all roads lead to the internet? The good news is there are ways to protect your kids. The bad news is that, yes, it is more work for we overextended parents but we MUST protect our precious babies from others and maybe even from themselves. Keep in mind the internet is ever-changing with new apps and new ways for kids to get around their parents. We have to stay vigilant. Here is the list of recommendations from Cyber Safety Cop, Deputy Clay Cranford:

1. Talk to your child about their online reputation. 63% of college admissions officers reported using social networking pages to research an applicant.

2. Use The Internet Safety Contract found at http://www.cybersafetycop.com/resources.aspx

3. Have open dialog with your kids about what they see/do on the internet. Sooner or later your child will see inappropriate behavior online.

4. Turn on Parental Controls on both the device and with the phone/internet provider. Read each sites privacy policy and check periodically to ensure the privacy settings have not changed.

5. Check your child’s device and monitor usage, activity and installed apps. You should have every app your child has and know how it works. There are several monitoring systems you can use to receive monitoring reports for individual devices. Here is a couple:

  • eBlaster records everything your children do online and on the PC. Recordings are organized in a detailed Activity Report that is send to your email address. It will forward every email, chat and instant message to your email address. It uses alert words to warn you of potential danger and it blocks any web site or person you don’t want them chatting with.
  •   Stealthgenie is spyware for phones, it will give you real time GPS location, records calls, views call history and has a live call intercept feature

6. Encourage balance. Set limits

7. Know all your child’s usernames and passwords. Periodically check.

8. Don’t let your children know your/their iTunes password. Your child should not be able to download any apps on their own.

9. Research and approve all new apps. Have an app approval process in place.

10. Don’t allow your children to jailbreak their phones. Jail breaking refers to a software hack that allows iPhones to install apps from a third party app store, bypassing Apple’s app review and approval process. Some of these apps have the ability to hide the child’s activity on their iPhone making parental supervision difficult. Vault apps are apps that hide apps. Look for changes to the colors, layout of their phone for a clue.

11. Don’t allow your child to charge their device in their bedroom at night. Keep the devices near adults at night.

12. Do not allow the use of anonymous texting apps like Kik Messenger or Ask.fm

13. Teach your kids the steps to dealing with a bully:

  • Tell the bully that “It’s not funny, it’s harassment, and if it doesn’t stop I will take it to the next level.”
  • Tell a trusted adult
  • Report abuse to the hosting site or use text a tip to police or a school
  • Block the bully from contacting you.
  • For in person physical abuse, tell your child to use both hands to “push away danger” and scream as loudly as possible STOP, STOP, STOP.
  • Don’t retaliate

14. Report Abuse. You can tag comments as abuse. You can also take screen shots of harassing messages and pics.

15. I added this one. Stay informed. Websites and apps are constantly changing. Here are a couple ways to keep up with technology:

  • Hit like to follow the Cyber Safety Cop on Facebook. His posts keep us updated on new technology and information.
  • Go to www.cybersafetycop.com for more detailed information on online dangers and risks.
  • Use www.urbandictionary.com to look up new acronyms and terms such as POS (parent over shoulder) or Wiz (marijuana).
  • Go to www.commonsensemedia.org for reviews of apps and games
  • Go to www.parentalcontrol.org to learn how to restrict or block potentially inappropriate content from your TV

I know this article is long but I hope everyone learned something knew because an informed parent is our best defense against cyber-abuse!

Terri Garcia has been a Southern California girl since the age of two. She has lived in Los Angeles County and both North and South Orange County. A stay-at-home mom and confessed “pinaholic”, she loves all things creative. She believes in giving back and practicing random acts of kindness. She finds joy in creating thoughtful, creative gifts, traveling, historical fiction and most importantly being mom to two very active boys. Similar to the Little Red Hen, she likes to do things herself; although in the end, she will happily share the homemade bread with family and friends.
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
Connect With Us


8 Comments

  1. FB Reader recommendation: E. Cox excellent article! I also recommend MobileWatchdog add an excellent mobile monitoring device. I get all the information and even notified right away when she receives any phone call or text that is not in her contacts

  2. So informative! Thank you for reminding us all how we need to stay on top of social trends. It is so important for parents to actively keep their families safe. Great article.

  3. Great information… I would also add that how you train your children when they are young makes all the difference. It is a lot more difficult to find out what they are up to if you don’t create the habits with them. Create their Instagram – TOGETHER… Write their passwords down so you don’t forget… Etc (when you log in as them, you will also know if they felt the need to change it and can have a great discussions as to why…$

  4. My kids are still too young for their own devices, however it is just around the corner and it’s amazing how fast everything changes. Thank you for this resource!

  5. Great article! Lots of useful and timely information with practical tips and resources on how to keep our kiddos safe. Thanks for sharing this important information, Terri!

  6. This is a great summary of my class. Thank you for providing it to your readers.

    May 8th at 6:00 to 8:00pm, at the Rancho Santa Margarita Community Bell Tower, we are hosting “Is Your Teen At Risk.” It is a conference for parents and their teens. We will have four speakers addressing: Social Media, Drug Trends in schools, Teen addiction, and teen depression. We will have more than 10 resource booths. The conference is free!

  7. This article was so informative because it not only offered point-by-point information that I can read to my child to make an impression, but also info that I can use to help monitor and protect him. Thank you!

  8. Very informative article, I am inspired by it and going to follow this for my kids

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *