Social networking poses dangers for students and children - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Social networking poses dangers for students and children

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Parents are careful about getting to know the children their children call friends.

And, that diligence should carry over to online friends.

As part of our School Smarts series, Candyce Clifft explores the steps parents can take to protect their children online.

Teens are connected on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and more, and family counselor Donna Russow says parents should be connected too.

Russow says, "the first thing I tell parents is to have their own Facebook page, and they need to befriend their child. That way they can revisit the site and see what's being posted."

Russow is with Family & Children's Place.  She says parents should be honest with their teen in letting him or her know mom and dad will be watching what's posted.  The next step is to be very clear with your teen what you believe is and is not appropriate to post online.

"I think they need to be very careful around language, the use of language,types of pictures that they post, any personal information about their friends, where they're going to be, where they're meeting up.  They need to be vague," Russow explains.

And, Russow says parents need to talk with teenagers about anything inappropriate the parent finds on the teen's email, phone or social network page.

It's important that young people understand the anything they share online is there forever.. even if the teen thinks he or she is using an instant message or video chat website that operates in real time.

Louisville Metro Police  Detective Dan Jackman with the Crimes Against Children Unit says teens often think they can say or do inappropriate things over a video chat site like woome or stickcam with the comfort that the image will not be available when they log off.  And he says, everything you do on line lives forever. "When I'm done, it's over with, but they don't know that the person, the kid on the other line is recording all this," Jackman says.

Jackman says young people and adults should operate under the assumption that the internet has no privacy settings and no protection from predators.  "What we're seeing a lot of lately is: a lot of our suspects have multiple online accounts on these social network sites. And, we'll have a suspect that's in his mid forties, fifties, and he'll have profiles on sites depicting him as a teenage girl."

Jackman says when young people chat online, they should verify their friends' identities.

Det. Jackman says kids can ask key questions.  " What did we have for homework tonight--just a simple question that only if you were in my school or class that day, they would know the answer."

And, finally, parents must be diligent to protect their children from online predators, online bullying, or the spread of information that could harm their children.  The best way to do that is to supervise internet usage and not rely entirely on parental controls.

Russow says, "they may fuss at you and say my friends' parents aren't doing that, you're just being nosy. As a parent, you have to say I'm sorry you feel that way, but that's what I'm going to do."

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