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HOW TO KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE IN AN ONLINE WORLD

Filed in News by on April 29, 2018 • views: 94

You may have spoken to your kids about sex, but what about sexting? The conversation is easier to have if you have all the facts. That’s why Pelham PACT co-sponsored an informative evening on April 18, 2018 with Westchester Assistant District Attorney Laura Forbes. Forbes, who is with the High-Tech Crimes Bureau and spends her days prosecuting internet-based offenses, discussed the digital dangers confronting today’s youth and offered parents advice and resources to help keep kids safe online.

 

First, ADA Forbes discussed the kinds of online crimes her department handles, including the creation of fake online accounts in someone else’s name, harassment, slander, threats, and hacking. She then outlined the legal aspects of dealing with these kinds of crimes. Offenses in Westchester are addressed by multiple laws. For example, creating a false email account and sending out harmful messages in someone else’s name is treated as forgery, which is a felony. School threats are taken very seriously here in Westchester — a terroristic threat is now a class D violent felony that can result in prison time. Victims of hacking are protected by trespass and tampering laws. Impersonating someone else online is considered an attempt to defraud on par with using someone else’s credit card.

 

ADA Forbes was also very frank in discussing how sexual predators operate online, casting wide nets to find victims, posing as other teens or “helpers,” and grooming their victims to be abused. Kids and parents often assume predators intentionally target certain individuals but in reality, every child online is a potential victim.

 

Distributing images of graphic sexual content is just as illegal as distributing an assault rifle or heroin, said ADA Forbes. The mere possession of an image of child pornography is a felony in the state of New York. It’s important to note that a child or teen receiving these kinds of images has done nothing wrong but has the potential to do something very wrong by forwarding the content. Parents who come across graphic images of children who could be in danger should share them with their local police department before deleting, as these children are often victims of sexual exploitation by adults.

 

ADA Forbes has seen an increase in victims of “up-skirting” and videos taken with phones under bathroom stalls; both are crimes whether done as a prank or by a predator to derive sexual pleasure. As long as we have unfettered internet access and phone cameras everywhere, children are at risk.

 

Parents play a crucial role in protecting their kids. Here’s what you can do:

 

  1. Talk to your kids about digital dangers.

 

  1. Monitor their online activity. Be the keeper of passwords to your child’s device, the app store and your router.

 

  1. Restrict their access to sites and apps that are common hotbeds for bullying behavior.

 

  1. Make sure your kids don’t share info or photos that make them targets for bullying.

 

  1. Don’t be afraid to contact law enforcement! Their primary goals are 1) containing damaging images and messages to keep kids safe and 2) intervening with support when necessary. Be sure to save all evidence of online harassment or sexual exploitation, including images, messages, posts, comments, etc.

 

  1. Contact the service or contact provider (i.e. Facebook) where the cyberbullying/exploitation is occurring. Most have anti-harassment policies and will, ultimately, remove harmful content from their sites.

 

  1. Educate yourself about the apps your child is using (and USE the same social media sites so you can see what’s being posted). Read about apps, especially parent reviews, before allowing them. Some of the apps/sites ADA Forbes said are hotbeds for bullying are:

 

  • KIK (free app allows users to communicate with just a username and no phone number)
  • Facebook (less kid activity now that so many adults are using the site)
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat (third-party apps or other cameras can capture the images)
  • Twitter
  • Yik Yak (app is a bulletin board service where users can post anonymously and everyone within 1.1 miles can see it and comment
  • Chatstep (a message board where users can chat and share files, including pornography)
  • Musical.ly (children can be exposed to sexually explicit dancing)
  • Stranger Meetup
  • YouTube

 

  1. Be aware of the Child Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) which imposes certain requirements on website administrators to protect children under 13. For example, Snapchat requires users to be 13 and up. (If your child under 13 is using Snapchat, he or she registered using an incorrect birthdate.)

 

  1. The gaming world exposes children to an open internet connection and a world of people they don’t know.

 

  1. If your router is more than five years old, call your provider and update it. New routers have filters and helpful options (like the ability to set wifi blackout periods).

 

 

HELPFUL ONLINE TOOLS AND RESOURCES:

 

www.commonsensemedia.com

www.netsmartz.org/home

www.fosi.org

www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/online-safety

www.missingkids.org

http://www.westchesterda.net/images/stories/brochures/digiDangerB.pdf

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