Recently I saw a screenshot of a Facebook post circulating warning parents of potential internet stalkers through the popular app TikTok.
The “writer” of this post warns that her daughter was contacted by a man who accessed her personal information from TikTok despite having privacy settings set.
Have you seen this post, too? Well, it’s fake.
Snopes.com, a popular site for debunking internet rumors, reports that this exact message, word for word, began circulation in 2019.
And there’s no proof to back-up the claim.
Why is knowing this so important? Because we are starting to develop an age of parenting fear. We are so paranoid to allow our children freedom, whether in the cyber-world or the real one, because of false panic spread throughout the internet.
So, is your child a target for internet predators? Thankfully, the answer is: probably not.
How to Know If You’re Child Is At Risk
Many children use the internet to socialize with friends and pursue budding interests.That’s a large population of minors connected to a large network of unsavoury individuals.
Overall, children do manage to steer clear of dangerous predators who use the electronic networks of school-aged children to groom victims for exploitation.
But there are some who fall victim to these monsters and understanding the characteristics of a typical victim will help you recognize the warning signs that your child is dealing with an online predator.
Here are the characteristics of a typical victim:
- Most, but not all, victims are between the ages of 12 and 15.
- Most victims have not set up privacy or security settings on their social media accounts to block strangers.
- Most victims willingly engage in conversations with strangers.
- Most victims are sheltered and introverted, seeking social connection through online means.
The most important thing you can do to keep your child safe on the internet is to be proactive.
How to Keep Your Child Safe on the Internet
Even well-behaved and smart children can make bad decisions with tragic consequences.
Short of physically being present during your child’s every encounter with the internet, or eliminating their access altogether, there is no way for a parent to be 100% sure that their child has not been contacted by a predator.
To keep your child safe on the internet, take these important steps:
- Keep track of which apps and accounts they access and ensure the privacy and security setting are activated.
- Educate your child on the dangers of sharing personal information. This not only protects them from strangers and predators but from online bullying as well.
- Encourage an open and honest environment of communication in your family. You want your child to feel comfortable talking to you about confusing or frightening situations.
Like any aspect of life we strive to prepare our children for, the best we can do is offer education, guidance and support. With these tools, your child will be able to make informed and safe decisions for themselves.
Additional Resources for Internet Safety
Simply talking to your children about internet safety may not be enough for them to fully conceptualize the risks.
Use these resources to help your child fully understand potential internet dangers:
- Protect Kids Online. This site is focused on providing parents with up-to-date information on internet safety.
- Zoe & Molly Online. This site provides online activities to help teach children in grades 3 to 4 about internet safety.
- CyberTip.ca. This site provides great internet safety resources for children under 11 as well as children older than 12.
By taking proactive steps to educate your child about the dangers of the internet and how to use it safely, the chances of your child becoming a victim to an online predator will drastically decrease.
How do you keep your kids safe online? Share your tips below!