By SUSAN LYNCH
With the number of pre-teens and teens on the internet today, parents should be very aware of the biggest danger of the web-online predators. According to pursight.com, 95 percent of all Americans age 12-17 use the internet, and three out of four do so on a tablet or a personal phone.
Let me ask you, when was the last time you randomly looked through your teenager’s phone? Our house has an open phone/tablet/laptop policy. If I decide to walk into my teen’s room and take his device for a thorough searching (and I do from time to time), he knows there is no point in arguing about it. Here is the thing, we pay for the internet and his phone as well, not to mention he lives under our roof. This isn’t a popular parenting technique anymore because everyone wants to be their child’s best friend.
If you just blindly trust your teen, or just take their word on things check out these statistics.
One in five U.S. teens have had requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give out personal sexual information via the internet.
Remarkably, boys account for around 30 percent of internet sexual exploitation.
The majority of Internet sexual predators are between the ages of 18 and 55, while their targets are between 11 and 15.
In every known case of a teen meeting a sexual predator from the internet, the teen went willingly.
In 2015 there were 799,041 registered sex offenders in the United States. (In Estill County alone there are 26).
16 percent of teens have thought about meeting someone they’ve only talked to online and 8 percent have met someone from online.
75 percent of children share personal information with strangers online.
33 percent of teens are friends with people online that they have not met in person.
I decided to try a little snooping of my own on Saturday morning. From my personal Facebook account I typed in a random name and went to their profile. Within 5 minutes I viewed almost 100 photos that belong to a teenage girl who lives in Madison County. I also found out that she had one sister, wore glasses, what school she attended, that she didn’t get along with her dad, and what color her mother’s car was. I was also able to follow her public post, and go from her Facebook to 4 other social networks she used. From the other 4 sites she used I gathered information like her best friend’s first name, where her family vacationed, the way she was “feeling” about her life at the current moment, and even the name of one of her teachers. Keep in mind I DO NOT KNOW THIS 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL!!! That information in the hands of a predator could be deadly. A man or woman with bad intentions can and will find a victim. We need to be sure that our kids are not providing them with everything they need to locate them and manipulate them into trusting them.
Here are just a few tips on protecting your teen. Monitor their internet use. I am not telling you to sit over their shoulder and watch everything they do, but don’t hesitate to randomly check their device. Know their passwords, all of them. If your teen has a social media account, you need access to it. Be sure to make their accounts private. There are step by step tutorials that show you how to lock your accounts down to anyone not on your friends list. Talk to your teen about predators. Making them aware of the dangers on the internet can go a long way. Remember, there is nothing wrong with being a friend to your child as long as you are a parent first.