Protecting children from potential predators means talking with children about the people they interact with online. The prevalence of online communication has given strangers a new avenue for approaching and getting close to youth. If a game or app has a chat or messaging feature on their platform, online predators can use that as a way to target and manipulate children. Through social media and other online communication, youth can be exposed to cyberbullies, scammers/hackers, violent or graphic content, pornography or sexually explicit content, hate speech, drugs, and alcohol.
As a result, it’s even more important for parents to ask kids about their online activities and friends. Liberty House’s Prevention Services and iRespect&Protect community campaign supports adults talking with children about online safety and the dangers of communicating on apps, games, and websites.
Chatting on Social Media
iRespect&Protect will be posting individual blogs about apps, games, and websites we think parents should be aware of. We will also be discussing other key risks associated with these platforms. The goal is not to persuade parents against allowing their child to use these platforms. Instead, our objective is to provide helpful information and resources to support parents to make informed decisions about the best ways to keep their children safe and facilitate conversations about how to make healthy online choices.
Online Safety Tips for Youth:
- Anything you say or post online (even if it was intended to be private) can be public and permanent
- Be aware of what online scams and suspicious links look like
- Create safe usernames and strong passwords—don’t share passwords with friends
- Make account settings private—most default settings are public
- Never give out identifying information such as date of birth, home address, school, or phone number
- Never respond to messages that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening or uncomfortable
- Don’t respond to a Direct Message (DM) from someone you don’t know
- Don’t accept “friend requests” from someone you don’t know; be sure “friends” are known and trusted
- Don’t meet in-person with someone you don’t know; people online may not be who they seem
- If experiencing any form of cyberbullying or online harassment: talk to someone about it, don’t retaliate or “get revenge”, block those who are cyberbullying, save the evidence, and report it
Recommendations for Parents
When using parental controls or monitoring tools, we encourage parents to be transparent and inform their children. Set reasonable boundaries and consequences for breaking those rules upfront. You can even use our Digital Media Contract to create a custom agreement—based on your own family values. If a child breaks a rule (such as deleting information to hide their activities), this should prompt a discussion.
Communication between parents and children is essential to establish expectations about healthy device use. This is about being your child’s “go-to” person. If a child feels comfortable speaking with you about positive experiences online, they are more likely to talk to you when a concerning situation arises.
iRespect&Protect has an updated list of Apps To Be Aware Of that can serve as a quick helpful guide about what apps to look out for and the risks specific to each platform. We strongly encourage parents to review apps and approve them before they’re installed. There are also parental controls that can help parents monitor a child’s activities on their cell phone or mobile device. We have outlined the pros, cons, and price of the most popular Parental Controls and Monitors Apps currently available.
Many of these apps have the capability to flag certain high-risk websites, or immediately alert a parent of any explicit words/terms used on the child’s device. While these apps can be a helpful supplement, technology cannot replace your role as a parent. The best way to keep children safe is to be proactive and have open, ongoing conversations about online safety that are free from judgment.
Ask these questions:
- Where are you going (online)?
- Who are you hanging out with (online)?
- How long will you be (online)?
- What will you be doing (online)?
- Why – tell me why you want to do this (online)?
Upcoming Blog Schedule
Related to the Dangers of Communicating Online, we’ll be releasing a 7-week series posting individual blogs about apps, games, and websites we think parents should be aware of. We’ll highlight key risks associated with these platforms and provide recommendations to help parents make informed decisions about the best ways to keep their children safe and facilitate conversations about how to make healthy online choices.
TikTok: Monday, January 30th
Instagram/NGL: Wednesday, February 1st
YouTube: Friday, February 3rd
WhatsApp: Monday, February 6th
Facebook/Facebook Gaming/Messenger: Wednesday, February 8th
Snapchat: Friday, February 10th
Twitter: Monday, February 13th
Discord: Wednesday, February 15th
Twitch: Friday, February 17th
Omegle: Monday, February 20th
Kik: Wednesday, February 22nd
4chan: Friday, February 24th
Reddit: Monday, February 27th
GroupMe: Wednesday, March 1st
Tinder/Grindr/Dating Apps: Friday, March 3rd
Xbox/Playstation: Monday, March 6th
Fortnite: Wednesday, March 8th
Roblox: Friday, March 10th
Among Us: Monday, March 13th
Minecraft: Wednesday, March 15th
IMVU: Friday, March 17th