Ask yourself these questions:
Would you invite a person you just met online into your home for dinner? Would you trust that same person entering your child’s room or taking your child to the movies alone?
The proliferation of mobile devices has put the ubiquitous nature of the internet at everyone’s fingertips. With the addition of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube over the last 10 years, our ability to share our thoughts, desires and actions with the outside world in real time is a simple click away. Posting personal information and meeting people online has become the new norm, which comes with a risky price.
While the internet can be a remarkable and valuable tool for staying connected with friends and family, sharing educational ideas and divergent political views, it can also be a dangerous tool in the hands of those who seek to cause fear and harm in others through threats, intimidation and actions.
In January 2009 the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released the report, Stalking Victims in the United States. According to the report—approximately 3.4 million people (14 in every 1,000 persons over age 18) were victims of stalking during a 12-month period in 2005 and 2006.
The stalking incidents occurred in the form of e-mail (83%), instant messaging (35%), blogs or bulletin boards (12%), internet sites about the victim (9.4%), or a chat room (4%). Additionally, nearly 3 in 4 stalking victims knew their offender in some capacity. According to the FBI, Internet and cyber crimes are the number one growing threats to our citizens across our country and internationally.
In order to protect yourself and your family, we offer simple but important suggestions that should be considered when posting or meeting people online.
Protecting yourself on Social Media
Here are a few tips:
• Be cautious on what you share, and whom you share it with
• Do not store any information you want to keep safe on a device that can connect to the Internet
• Don’t post in real time on your current location
• Be aware of the type of pictures you are posting
• Don’t use your primary email when creating your profile; create a new email
• Be careful whom you meet on social media
• Keep in mind you don’t really know the 600 people you have as “friends” on your social media account
• Use a nickname and also don’t use your phone # or home address when creating accounts
• The information on social media could be inaccurate and bad people tend to disguise themselves as someone else.
• Never send or give money through social media sites or people.
• If you think you have been victim of a crime, report it to the social media site and the local police department immediately.
Children are especially vulnerable to the risk involved with just about any kind of cyberspace communication and parents should to an active role in maintaining their safety.
According to the U.S. Senate resolution naming June as Internet Safety Month, 35 million U.S. children from kindergarten through grade 12 have Internet access, and 80% are online at least one hour per week.
Consider the following tips when ensuring your child’s safety online:
Kids and Social Media
• Tell your kids why it’s so important not to disclose personal information online.
• Explain to your kids that once images are posted online they lose control of them and can never get them back.
• Monitor your children’s use of the Internet; keep your Internet computer in an open, common room of the house.
• Check your kids’ profiles and what they post online.
• Read and follow the safety tips provided on the sites.
• Sign a contract with your kids that they can never give out personal information or meet anyone in person without your prior knowledge and consent.
• Encourage your kids to consider whether a message is harmful, dangerous, hurtful, or rude before posting or sending it online, and teach your kids not to respond to any rude or harassing remarks or messages that make them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and to show you the messages instead.
• Explain to your kids that bad people disguise themselves as “kids” in order to lure them away from home and into a possible dangerous situation
• Report inappropriate activity to law enforcement and the FBI immediately.