Archive for the ‘Kids Internet Safety’ tag
Welcome E. (@GeeksDreamGirl) to the Face File Blog! E. is an expert in online dating safety and works with online daters nationwide to craft safe and expressive online dating profiles. Visit her at www.geeksdreamgirl.com or www.onlinedatingprofiler.com
It seems like online dating services are asking more and more questions these days.Â In the early days, you got a big blank space to write your piece, but now they want to know your favorite hotspots in town, where you can be found on a Friday night… I mean, prime stalker material, isnâ€™t it?Â And speaking as someone who once had a stalker (ironically enough, in the days before I started online dating), itâ€™s not fun having to look over your shoulder everywhere you go.
You might be wondering how you can express yourself and be unique and attractive without spilling all the beans about your life.Â You run on the West Orange Trail every Saturday morning, you work as a manager at a mom and pop store, you love going swing dancing at the Whirl nâ€™Twirl.Â These things are great, but any of the three could easily tell a crazy person where to find you.
The key here is to be vague without being vague.Â It would be boring if you watered those facts about you down to: â€œI run, dance, and manage a store.â€Â Yawn.Â Â But what about something like this?
â€œManaging a retail store can get pretty stressful, but Iâ€™m lucky that Iâ€™m one of the few people in retail with regular days off.Â Since my body still wakes me up regardless of whether I have to punch in at work, I lace up my sneakers and go for a run with my dog, Tucker.Â In the evenings, I turn back time and practice dancing from an earlier era.Â Sure, itâ€™s â€œold-fashioned,â€ but it is definitely a lot of fun!â€
Be vague without being vague.Â Be specific without being specific.Â Write about the actions and feelings surrounding what you do rather than the places.Â Itâ€™s a little trickier, but it will keep you safer in the end.
It’s every parent’s nightmare: having a child fall prey to an online predator. Children, especially between the ages of 11 and 15, have a false sense of trust and an overblown opinion of their ability to make good decisions. They can become victims to Internet predators despite all the lectures, monitoring, filters and rules you may have in place. Sometimes you have to figure out what’s going on yourself, based on your child’s actions. So, what are the warning signs that your child could be lured into someone’s trap?
- Your child is a loner. Kids with lots of friends tend to go skating or to the mall or just goof-off together around the neighborhood. Children with few friends are often starved for companionship and will accept it from that “nice kid” in the chat room.
- Your child seems awfully naive for his or her age. It might seem cute to you that your 12 year-old has the same loving, trusting heart she did when she was eight, but this kind of personality will easily believe that the 35-year-old man two streets over is really another 12 year-old girl.
- Conversely, your child is a major risk-taker. Victims tend to fall in the two extreme ends of this personality trait. If your child has been getting in trouble for things he knows is dangerous or wrong and you’ve been pulling your hair out worrying about all the things he never got caught for, you may need to pay close attention to Internet activity.
- Your child spends a lot of time online. Studies have shown that 90 minutes of online activities outside of homework is the tipping point where children are more likely to engage in dangerous online behavior. Your child should have a balanced life with sports, art, music, reading and other offline activities in his/her life.
- Your child is secretive about his Internet activity. If your child spends a lot of time online but won’t tell you what he is doing then he’s sending up a red flag. There are all kinds of tricks, such as having a benign website ready to go whenever you walk by, that kids can use to cover-up their questionable activity.
- Your child is getting phone calls or mail from people you don’t know. Monitor your child’s phone, caller ID and outgoing calls. Make sure you know everyone who they’re in contact with. Same with the mail. If your child is getting mail, make sure he opens it in front of you (or honestly, open it for them).
If you have any suspicion something might be going on, take action. Move the computer to the living area. Put filters and tracking software on it. It could be your child doesn’t want you to know he’s illegally downloading music or it could be much worse. Don’t be paranoid – just be aware and make sure that you’re in the know.
I am a single dad to an eight year-old girl. That puts her in second grade. She has been using a computer, like most kids these days, since she was old enough to click a mouse. Keeping her safe on the Internet gets more challenging every year.
In the beginning it was easy, as she was just playing installed games or using kid-friendly sites like Nick Jr. or Playhouse Disney. She couldn’t navigate away from where she was without my help. Besides, I usually sat there and played along right by her side. The chance that she could stumble upon an inappropriate site was next to none and the chance that she could be contacted by an Internet predator was zero, because she wasn’t the one doing the responding or navigating. Ah, the days of being Dear Ol’ Dad!
But as she got older and savvier about getting around the Internet, things changed. She wanted to be online, whether it was on Webkinz or Tygirls or any of the other sites little girls like to go to. But she still needed me to type in the URLs and she knew she wasn’t allowed to navigate away. She was also still sitting with me most of the time while she surfed, so my worries remained few.
Along came second grade and the discovery of Google images. She’s crazy about animals and was learning how to use tools like Google at school. Naturally, she started Googling pictures of animals. I would do searches with her, making sure I didn’t accidentally make any typos that would bring up a site she shouldn’t see. Eventually, she wasn’t satisfied and wanted to do it herself. They grow up fast, don’t they?
Since I couldn’t stop progress and thought it was important for her to start navigating on her own, I found a way to let her have at it: but I found a way to do it on MY terms. First, I tested strict filtering on Google. (Go to “search preferences” to the right of the box where you type your search phrase. Click on it, and on the resulting page choose the “use strict filtering” button about halfway down the page.) I won’t say what I typed in, but I will say that I am completely confident that Google filters out all the bad stuff. Then, I set her up with her own browser and set up the Google on that browser so I don’t have to check every time to see if it’s set. Confident that I had a kid-friendly set up, I handed her the computer and said, “OK, you have to sit here by me, but you can search Google for animal pictures on your own.”
To which she replied, “Yay! Thanks daddy! I’m going to look for pictures of beavers!”
With the wide variety of content on the Internet, we have to do our best to keep the questionable stuff away from our kids – especially kids who like to search for beavers, wiener dogs and cocker spaniels.
If your teenager were engaging in a chat or text conversation and you came in and looked over his shoulder, the last thing he would type would be, “Can’t talk now, mom over shoulder.” It would instantly make you suspicious and you’d start giving him or her the third degree about what they’re up to. But he could type “CTN MOS” to get the same point across. There is a whole language of slang and acronyms that teens are using for texting and chat rooms, and some of it can be dangerous.
These types of acronyms came into use during the early days of the Prodigy, CompuServe and AOL chat rooms. Shortcuts in typing made the conversation move along more quickly. As texting gained popularity, the acronyms were a perfect fit for the new medium. Many are completely innocent and you probably know that is a smiley face and is a wink. These are called emoticons, and most of them depict a face turned sideways. For instance :p is a face with tongue sticking out. Acronyms include LOL for “laughing out loud,” BRB is “be right back” and BF / GF refers to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
But there are some acronyms that will make any parent shudder. GNOC is “get naked on cam” (web cam). TDTM means “talk dirty to me.” MIRL is “meet in real life.” The list goes on and on. With the looming presence of Internet predators out there, it’s important to monitor your teenager’s chatting and texting habits. If there are acronyms you don’t understand, do a Google search. If you don’t like what you see, like NIFOC or “naked in front of computer,” talk to your child. Make sure he knows that you know what he’s doing and talk about the dangers of Internet predators.
As you might imagine, the list of acronyms is constantly evolving and changing. But a good place to start would be this extensive list at Safe Surfing Kids.