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Online Safety for Your Children: Social Media, Internet, Cell Phone Apps




Rob-Baquera.jpg

Tips from the Roseville Police department and the FBI

Roseville, CA- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Flickr, Vimeo.  Is your child engaging in these social media websites?  Do you have your child's password for these accounts?  Of the reported more than 2.6 billion users of social networking sites, do you know who is messaging your child?

In January this year, Roseville police arrested a 21-year-old-Sacramento man who sent inappropriate messages to a young Roseville girl.  He sent her photos of himself and asked her to send him similar photos of herself.  He proposed meeting with her in person.  Fortunately, a very alert mother and the work of the Roseville Police Department kept this predator from harming his young victim.  But this should be a dire warning to parents.  With the rapid expansion of social media websites and online connectivity, parents need to be aware and take whatever steps they can to protect their children. 

Children are innocent and na├»ve; they don't think new people they meet want to harm them.  Parents have a responsibility to protect them.  Talking about this subject with them at an age-appropriate level should not only educate them about some risky consequences of connecting with strangers over the internet, it should open the lines of communication between you and them.  Going forward, if something makes them feel uncomfortable about messages someone sends them, they will be able to approach you to talk about it.

Here is some advice from the Roseville Police department and the FBI about online safety for children.  These guidelines apply to any computers and cell phones too.

* Monitor your child's use of the internet.  Keep and use the home computer in an open, common room in your house.
* Tell your child why it's important not to disclose personal information online.
* Check your child's profile and what they post online.
* Explain to your child that once images are posted online, they lose control of them and can no longer get them back.
* Tell your child about creating and using strong passwords.
* Ask your child about the people they are communicating with online.
* Set a rule that your child may not meet face-to-face with persons they meet online.  If they meet other students or young people with the same interests and want to meet, insist that you talk to that person's parents first and you must accompany them to any such meeting in a public place.

The following are recommendations for parents.  It's important for you to know what your child is seeing and any risks involved in the social media sites he/she is using.

* Read and follow safety tips provided on each website.
* Help your child to set strong privacy settings to restrict access to their profile.
* Visit networking websites with your child and discuss what is acceptable and what is risky.
* Educate yourself on the websites, software and apps that your child uses.

Many games made for kids actually have chat features where complete strangers can join their games and chat with them.  While some participants might be kids like yours, this chat feature is a prime outlet that predators use to befriend your child.  Online predators are experts at piecing together details to create a profile of where your child lives, goes to school or hangs out after school in the case of teens.

* As a parent, you can decide at what age or maturity level your child is ready to have a cell phone.
* Stay engaged with your child and know what they are doing online.
* Talk to them about making smart choices and the type of information they share online.
* Talk with them about how to handle peer pressure to do things they might not want to do.

With your guidance, your children should be able to use social media and still understand the importance of staying safe online.

For questions or more information, please contact Rob Baquera, Police Community Services, at (916)774-5057 or pdcommunityservices@roseville.ca.us.

Resources:  FBI; makeawebsuitehub.com




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