ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A Big Country family counselor is giving tips on how to keep your children safe online following the arrest of 26 men for online solicitation of a minor.
Allison Wesson, Family Services Manager at New Horizons, said everything is more accessible nowadays on the internet, which can be both good and bad.
Wesson first suggested good parental controls on your child’s phone or tablet, which can restrict the time used on social media applications.
She said she highly recommends using those parental controls, but also said kids can sometimes find ways around them.
Wesson said the most important aspect to keeping your children safe online is communication.
She said transparency about the potential dangers online can help keep an open and honest relationship between you and your child when it comes to social media usage.
“You should have that communication open with your children so they feel safe coming to you about those things,” Wesson said. “Also, you should always feel comfortable approaching your children about their communication online with individuals.
Wesson said some kids will show more non-verbal signs that something could be going on, such as being sneakier with their phones, less responsive when they are around their parents or get a notification and not respond quickly.
She said that children do need their privacy to a certain degree, but parents should have guidelines in place when it comes to their social media usage.
“There should never be complete privacy between a child and a parent.” Wesson said.
Another tip Wesson mentioned is having family internet or social media time together and in a common area in the house, such as the kitchen or living room.
Wesson said reassurance is also a major factor in keeping kids honest on their phones or tablets.
She said letting them know that even adults make mistakes, like responding to something they shouldn’t have, goes a long way in they eyes of a child.
Wesson said that it allows them to be more comfortable coming to you if they receive a message online that they don’t know how to respond to. She also said that letting them know they won’t be in trouble if they are put in that situation and are scared or afraid is an important step.
Lastly, Wesson said that parents should not be afraid to speak to the police if they are unsure about a conversation their child is having online, but said you need to be open with your child when taking those steps.
The Department of Homeland Security issued the following tips to help keep kids safe online:
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is committed to combating the sexual exploitation of children. Investigations of child sexual exploitation are among HSI’s primary investigative priorities. The sexual abuse of children impacts the most vulnerable segment of our society.
HSI knows the importance of education and community awareness regarding the dangers of online activity. Providing children, teens, parents and teachers with information regarding the potential dangers of online environments and how to stay safe online can help prevent many instances of child exploitation. Our special agents work relentlessly with our local law enforcement partners to prosecute those involved in child exploitation.
Tips to keep children safe from Online predators
- Discuss internet safety with children of all ages when they engage in online activity.
- Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded.
- Make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible for online gaming systems and electronic devices.
- Monitor your children’s use of the internet; keep electronic devices in an open, common room of the house.
- Check your children’s profiles and what they post online.
- Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the Internet.
- Make sure children know that anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult and law enforcement.
- Remember that victims should not be afraid to tell law enforcement if they are being sexually exploited. It is not a crime for a child to send sexually explicit images to someone if they are compelled or coerced to do so.
Reporting suspected sexual exploitation can help minimize or stop further victimization, as well as lead to the identification and rescue of other possible victims. If you believe you are—or someone you know is—the victim of child sexual exploitation:
- Contact your local law enforcement agency.
- Contact your local HSI office, submit a tip online at https://www.ice.gov/tipline or by phone at 866-DHS-2-ICE.
For more information on keeping children safe from online predators: https://www.ice.gov/topics/iGuardians