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Thursday, December 12, 2013


KEEPING YOUR KIDS SAFE ONLINE - Mrs. Lo is a pro bono attorney for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and has been asked to share the following important information about kids and social media.  A survey of 12 to 17 year olds revealed 38% had posted self-created content such as photos, videos, artwork, or stories. Another survey of 10 to 17 year olds revealed 46% admit to having given out their personal information to someone they did not know. The likelihood kids will give out personal information over the Web increases with age with 56% of 16 to 17 year olds most likely sharing personal information.

Tips from the NCMEC to Minimize Potential Risk of Abuse
- Social-networking websites often ask users to post a profile with their age, sex, hobbies, and interests. While these profiles help kids connect and share common interests, individuals who want to victimize kids can use those online profiles to search for potential victims.

- Kids sometimes compete to see who has the greatest number of
contacts (friends/ likes) and will add new people to their lists even if they do not know them in real life.

- Kids cannot “take back” the online text and images they post. Kids may display images or write information that is provocative, harmful, and/or inappropriate. Online Web postings are accessible
by the public. Individuals who have access to this information can save and forward these postings to an unlimited number of users.

- Talk to your kids about how once images are posted online they
lose control of them and can never get them back. Only allow your kids to post photos or any type of personally identifying information on websites with your knowledge and consent.

- Kids may not realize the potential ramifications
of their online activities. They can face consequences for posting
harmful, explicit, dangerous, or demeaning information online including being humiliated in front of their families and peers, suspended from school, charged criminally, and denied employment or entry into schools, as well as losing existing scholarships/ positions on athletic teams.

- Instruct your kids to use privacy settings to restrict access to profiles so only the individuals on their contact lists are able to view their profiles.

- Remind kids to only add people they know in real life to their contact lists.

- Make sure you have your kids' username and password and monitor regularly.  Visit social-networking websites with your kids, and exchange ideas about OK versus potentially risky websites.

- Ask your kids about the people they are communicating with online.  Make it a rule with your kids that they can never give out personal information or meet anyone in person without your prior knowledge and consent. If you want to consider a meeting, talk to the other kid’s parents/guardians. If you agree to the meeting, accompany your kids and meet with the other kid and his or her parents/guardians in a public place.

- Encourage your kids to think “Is this message harmful, dangerous, hurtful, or rude?” before posting or sending anything online. Teach your kids not to respond to any rude or harassing remarks or messages that make them feel scared, or uncomfortable.

Be smart, you wouldn't let your kid watch inappropriate movies, yet they are out there in the Twitter sphere going crazy, literally, because they think no one's watching.  Letting your kids tweet and use social media with no supervision is the modern equivalent of letting your 2-year old get on and off the subway by themselves everyday.  They might be OK for a while but, eventually, somebody's going to get hurt.

But, Mrs. Lo, you say, then my kids will think I'm a helicopter parent.  Good.  That's our job.  A public service message from Mrs. Lo and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.  <3 Mrs. Lo

Juliana LoBiondo