Ever evolving advances in information technology has forever changed the landscape of childhood. The world in which our children find themselves is not the world we grew up in. Today, children have personal cell phones, tablets, and laptops. It is imperative that parents teach their child that although the Internet is a fabulous educational tool, provides entertainment, and can be used to connect with family and friends; it is not a private place and is subject to abuse. While we still need to worry about perverts hanging around the playground, pedophiles have found a new place to hide.

Sexual predators take cruel advantage of the curiosity of children, luring them into conversations, meetings and more. Parents can help protect children and teens by enforcing parental controls and Internet safety rules when children go online. Now is the time to have the talk with your child about “stranger danger” and prepare them in the event they are approached or solicited. Make sure children understand that if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell you. They are not in trouble, and it is not their fault if a “freak” finds them. Reassure them that when they tell you, you will prevent that person from ever contacting them again.

Warn children never to give out personal information including their last name, their address, where they go to school, where their parents work, telephone numbers, credit card information or computer passwords. Warn young children as well as teenagers of the dangers of chat rooms and remind them to never download software without your express permission; an innocent looking video or website may mask pornography or perversion.

To discourage children from visiting sites they should not see, keep the home computer in the family room in full view. You should also employ blocking software to protect children from accidently visiting a questionable site. Just as you would advise your child not to talk to strangers at the park or at the mall, warn them not to talk to strangers online and only to chat with their close friends.

Tell you child that “bad people” often wear disguises online. They may think they are talking to another girl or boy when they are being lured into a conversation with a dangerous adult with harmful intentions.

Be aware of signs that your child may have an unhealthy relationship or is being sexually exploited over the Internet.

• You stumble upon material of a pornographic or hate-mongering nature on your child’s mobile device

• Your child starts to spend an excessive time online or displays secretive or deceptive behavior

• You receive strange phone calls or hang-ups

• Your child turns off the screen when you enter the room

• Your child’s personality changes and they become withdrawn

If you wish to report an issue or suspect inappropriate online behavior, you can file a report at the Cyber Tip Line. The Cyber Tip Line has recorded over 2.2 million complaint reports since its launch online 1998.

Date: 08/28/2016 Time: 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM  
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