online predatorProtecting their child is the number one objective of any parent. This is the primary role and responsibility. Unfortunately, it is becoming a role that is more difficult with the Internet around. Although the vast majority of people use the Internet for harmless everyday tasks, there are some who use this medium to commit crimes.

Worse yet, many of these crimes are committed against children. Take this headline from the Calgary Herald for example:

WebcamYou're a 21st-century parent who embraces the wonders of the Internet. This is why you allow your kid to roam the web in search of homework answers, to play online games, and to video chat with grandma.

But you're also aware of the online dangers. That's why you allow use of the desktop or laptop only in the living room where everyone can see. And the built-in camera is only available when you're watching.

Teens using phonesChildren now spend more time with the media via Internet and mobile technology than they do with their family, in school, or sleeping.A 2012 a nationwide survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that in just five years, media use has increased from 6 ½ to nearly 7 ½ hours a day in children between the ages of 8 and 18. As if this weren’t frightening enough, children also tend to be master multitaskers, using as many as three technological tools at once to browse through their digital lives.

parent teaching Internet safetyThere is never a time too early in the life of a child to start thinking about Internet security. Children of younger and younger ages are starting to get a glimpse into the world of the Internet, and many are potentially at risk if they are not informed of what they should and should not do. 

SmartphoneSnapchat started as a college course project, but has grown exponentially in the last year. Now available, for free, through app stores, the application allows people to send and receive pictures and videos directly to their phone.

The "Snap" is only available for a set period of time (about 10 seconds), then it is deleted from the phone and the server. Snapchat seems like a fun enough venture, but for those trying to parent in the digital age, it can be problematic. 

Potential for Sexting

Because Snapchat only keeps photos for 10 seconds or less, parents have no way of really knowing what content their child is swapping. For many years, Snapchat has been dubbed the "sexting app". Although not every person using Snapchat is sexting away, the app didn't get their nickname for no reason.

Teen on phoneWhen considering mobile and internet child safety as parents, it may cause you to reminisce. "Well, back in my day this was never a concern."

Don't feel old, we're all working through it. Technology has changed and will continue to. Due to this, considering a child's safety hasn't changed - instead, there's now more to be cautious of. 

textingThe most important segment of society to keep safe on the Internet is obviously our children. Children are the most vulnerable to being preyed online. They are not as experienced in using the Internet and may not understand the dangers that lurk there. Thus, Internet security is an important topic of conversation to have with your children.

In an article about Internet security and children, recommends preventing the download of free material online that may contain spyware or viruses: 

digital familyThe Internet, possibly, the most used form of communication (if not now, it soon will be!) has become a fun and exciting place to play and talk with friends and family. However, it has also become a place where bad things can and do happen.

With all of the digital dangers like identity theft, online predators and cyberbullying around the corner for Internet users, even adults have to leery about what we are doing. Nevertheless, when it comes to our children, we have to practice foresight, patience, and the knowledge of how and what technology your children use and have.

library wifiWhen it comes to laws regarding Internet security and bullying, there is still a lot of work to be done. Parents are urged to educate their children about Internet security, but there is still a need for real objective policy.

One institution that fights Internet bullying is the Family Online Safety Institute, an international non-profit organization that works towards a safer Internet environment. The CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, Stephen Balkam, recently wrote an article in The Guarding expressing the need for new policy:

TeacherIt’s not every day that you hear of a law being passed in favor of promoting social media usage in schools. Usually, it is a constant struggle between teachers and their students to get them to unplug from these networks. However, New Jersey is now taking steps that may enhance mobile and Internet safety via required social media classes.

When Children Will Be Learning About Social Media

identity theftParents do their best in teaching their children to not go anywhere with a stranger, but how many actually teach them to not share personal information with strangers?

Research shows that more than 500,000 children become victims of identity theft every year.  The most amazing fact is that almost half of these children are under the age of six. Practicing internet and cell phone safety can protect children from potential predators, but parents must also have a clear understanding of how mobile and internet child safety can also protect a child’s identity.

There is an alarming story on about a teenage girl who was a victim of identity theft at age three. As a teenager, she now owed $750,000 for homes and automobiles an identity thief had purchased in her name.

An estimated one in every 40 households with young children has been impacted by identity theft. All a thief needs is a child’s full name and date of birth. As technology advances with smartphones and an increasing number of apps are available, we can do almost anything on our phones that we can do on our laptops or home computer. As people go to replace their old phones with smartphones, thieves are stealing the personal data left on them.

appsIf you think that your child is absolutely safe on the Internet at all times, you are probably fooling yourself. This is particularly true if you have not taken the time to have a conversation with your child about the potential dangers of the Internet. It is important to consider both mobile and Internet child safety these days. 

Why Mobile Matters Just As Much

Pew Research conducted a poll asking teens what kind of phone they have. They found that 37% of teens ages 12 to 17 indicate that they own a smartphone. This means that almost half of teens can chat, meet people, buy things, and get involved in other situations online that could be potentially dangerous to them. 

To many, bullying is still considered a “soft” form of abuse because there are no visible injuries. After all, only our feelings are hurt. 

internet safety talkThere is no question children are interested in cell phones and social media sites. From a very young age they see their parents on smart phones, and they watch them get online to update their status and post new photos. More and more often parents give their young children phones and tablets to entertain them on airplanes or at restaurants. It's not surprising then, that most kids begin asking for their own cell phone or tablet well before their teen years.

Many parents see the obvious advantage of giving their children access to technology that can help keep them safe and let them check in with parents more easily. The big question remains: how do parents balance the desire to give their children more independence with the need to prioritize mobile and internet child safety?

New articles come out every week warning parents of dangerous apps online. Sadly, predatory apps do exist, and corrupt people will use these apps to try to take advantage of children. However, most teenagers do not intend to use their phones or the Internet to get in trouble. They want to connect with their friends, and often they just don't see how using the latest trendy app could put them at risk.

bullied childThere have been extensive efforts in the 21st century to limit bullying, particularly in schools. Parents now understand how detrimental bullying can be for young children and are trying to put an end to it.

Unfortunately, the emergence of the Internet and social media makes this task quite difficult. The anonymity and speed of the Internet makes bullying too convenient. Parents have to constantly be on the lookout as to what their children are doing online and practice mobile and Internet child safety. Simple conversations can quickly turn into inappropriate behavior that can have long-lasting effects on a child's mental health.

child ipadYoung children can get into just as much trouble online as their parents. In fact, young children may be more in danger because they do not necessarily know the boundaries of what they should and should not do. Therefore, Internet security should be a primary concern for any parent with a young child. 

Keeping Children Away From Sensitive Information recommends the following for children under the age of 5: 

KEEP devices like your mobile out of reach and make sure you have passwords/PINs set up on them for the times you might lend them to your child... or for when they simply get hold of them themselves!

It is too easy for a child to start crawling through your personal information and data if they are able to access your phone without having to enter a pin. It is simply the safest to keep those devices locked up and out of reach. 

Curbing Child Identity Theft

Quick facts about the prevalence of identity theft:

teens on laptopAre you the parent of a teenager? If so, chances are that you know the struggle of trying to keep them safe while also letting them live their life. That is what so many parents have to worry about these days. It is even harder when it comes to broaching Internet security and knowing how to approach disciplining them in the age of information.

Here are some easy digital parenting mantras that will make your job a little easier:

1. You Are The Parent

The bottom line when it comes to keeping children safe online is to remember that you are the parent and are in control. You get to set the rules for your children, and they are to obey those rules. You can make sure that the rules are fair to them while at the same time maintaining their safety. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, that is what you are supposed to be doing as the parent.

2. The Internet is a Privilege, Not a Right

In the same vein, kids and teens might need to periodically be reminded that their Internet use is a privilege granted to them, not a right. From their persepctive, widespread Internet access has been available to them for as long as they can remember. For this reason, it can be easy for teens, tweens and even young kids to feel entitled to have continuous Internet access from their phones or other digital devices.

teen on phoneEven though many parents understand that they should use parental controls on their home computer, many never establish a means for getting the job done.  According to a McAfee survey, most parents left their kids alone while surfing the internet and over half the parents surveyed didn’t know if their kids had a social networking account, like Facebook. Another study indicated that approximately 72 percent of teens do have social networking profiles and almost half of them are public profiles viewable by anyone.

Parents must realize that Internet security is needed across multiple devices. With the advancements in technology, children have Internet access on smartphones, iPads, tablets and other mobile devices. Mobile technology can expose children to not only the good, but also all of the bad on the Internet.

Personal monitoring of mobile devices isn’t always possible since kids use them on the way to school and even while school is in session.  Many school systems around the country are experimenting with pilot programs using mobile learning with the goal of replacing textbooks and other coursework with technology. Both parents and school administrators will need to make sure they use the technologies available to make these mobile devices safer and more child-friendly both at home and at school.

Turning the Tide

sextortionA Florida child porn case is making headlines because of its sheer magnitude. Lucas Chansler, 31, was sentenced to 105 years in prison for his coast to coast sextortion of young girls. Authorities found around 80,000 child porn pictures and videos on his computer and amongst his possessions.

Chansler used video chat to convince 350 girls between the ages of 13 and 18 to send him explicit pictures and videos. The images were sent between 2007 and 2010. Chansler admitted that he extorted the young girls to send nude pictures by threatening them. He pleaded guilty on 9 counts of producing child pornography. He'll likely spend between 15 and 30 years in prison and he'll be forced to pay a quarter of a million dollars in fines for each of the 9 counts.

Chansler didn't target girls in his home state of Florida or any other specific region. He went for anyone and everyone he could ensnare. His victims were spread out across 26 states. Chansler used video chats to weasel his way into conversations with the girls by pretending to be an acquaintance. He used multiple screen names to alter his identity with his victims.

mom and daughterAll good parents have a parental instinct to protect their children. This instinct no longer extends only to the real world, but to the online world as well. Mobile and Internet child safety has become as important if not more important than typical safety measures. Here are a few common Internet safety dangers that parents and teens should approach with caution.

1. Chat Rooms 

One of the areas where children can be targeted is on chat rooms. The ability to remain anonymous makes these rooms a prime area to attack for predators. This is not to say that everyone who uses a chat room is a predatory, but it does mean that this is one area where they are often attracted.