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Offline parenting could save your child from online predators

Schools across the state of Florida are opening. Parents commonly discuss stranger danger with their children, especially at this time of the year.

Talk to your children about what they share online.
Safety Online

98% of kids are online with 80% of them having cell phones. In a recent study by McAfee, 59% of teens engage with strangers online.

Stranger danger is not only a concern offline, it is very much a concern that needs to be addressed in our children's cyber-lives.

Parenting offline is critical to keeping them safe online. Your child needs to know when to click out of a website, app or chatroom, when they are feeling uncomfortable with a situation or a website is not what it seems.

Teaching our child smart cyber-skills offline will help them when we are not with them. It's a fact, children, especially teenagers, spend more time online than they do with their parents face to face.

Whether it is emailing, texting, posting photos - your child needs to implement digital savvy and understand that the cyberworld is unforgiving.

Meeting strangers online can be risky. Would your child or teenager know what to do if they were faced with the choices that this video has?

Do you have a digital contract with your child or teen yet? It may be a good time to consider one.

We don't want to wait for national headlines to discuss the risks of sexual predators that can linger online or offline.

Discuss cyber-safety often - offline with your family. Here are five tips to begin protecting your kids from online predators:

  1. Never give your personal information. According to the McAfee study 30% of teens gave out their phone number and 14% of teens actually gave out their home address online. Oversharing is a huge no-no on all levels.
  2. Only IM or instant message people you know. Kids want to be noticed, stroked, recognized - it is easy for a predator to latch on to their prey by several kind words. Don't allow strangers to engage in conversation with you if you don't know them.
  3. Online friends are to remain online. It is common to have online friends from mutual interest groups, but never go offline and meet them unless a parent is present.
  4. Choose your screen name carefully. Everyone likes fun screen names, but don't select ones with sexual references.
  5. Communication is key. It may seem like a broken record, but discussing online safety and digital citizenship has to become a regular conversation. It is our society today.

Share the video with your kids, be proactive - let's not wait for the next incident.