Protect While They Connect: Protecting Youth Online
If you are staying home more often with your family, you and your children are likely spending increased time online. While online spaces can be an excellent way to stay educated, entertained, and socially connected, there is a risk that your child may encounter uncomfortable or high-risk predatory situations.
You can take simple steps to help your child stay safe while using online platforms
- Talk to the children in your life about safe tech use, explain to your child that just like you need to keep them safe in real life, you need to keep them safe online. Set boundaries with your children about using technology, talk about behaviors that are okay, like playing games or talking to friends they know in real life, and things that are never okay, like talking to people they’ve never met, sharing private information, or sharing photos. In a developmentally appropriate manner, explain the risks of using technology, for example, explain how people online may not be who they say they are, and that anything shared online, like photos or private information, can be made public.
- Encourage the young people in your life to learn more about how to become a good digital citizen. Below are resources to assist in teaching young people how to stay safe online:
- Work with your children to understand and learn more about specific online platforms they frequently use, including social media, gaming platforms, text and video platforms and more. Work together with your child to ensure you both know how to:
- Identify and learn more about specific platforms and their privacy and security settings
- Review all privacy settings
- Adjust settings so locations cannot be identified
- Block anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable
- Ask for and seek out help
- Understand the risks that young people may face online and stay alert to signs of distress linked with online activity. Stay engaged in what your child is doing online; have computers placed in a central location, check in on their social media accounts, ask questions, and continue to engage in dialogue and learn more about tech safety with the young people in your life.
- Model responsible and empowered technology use for the young people in your life. Exemplify the type of behavior you aim to see in your young person, set clear boundaries with your own use, model safe practices, and demonstrate appropriate digital citizenship.
- Avoid shaming and blaming, making your safety interventions seem like punishments. If your child thinks you may take away or heavily restrict their games or online activities, they may become more secretive about their activities and less likely to come to you with issues. Instead empower young people to take care of themselves and others and think critically about how they behave online, offering tangible strategies and safety options.
- Let your children know they can always talk to you. The internet is a great tool for them, so try not to make it scary. Make sure your child knows that when you have conversations about safety or set rules and boundaries, it does not mean that that they did anything wrong or that they are in trouble. Let them know that if they are ever in an uncomfortable situation or if someone online is acting strangely, that they can and should come to you right away without fear of punishment.
Some acts of cyber exploitation may constitute a crime under Maryland or Federal law, and some acts of exploitation may create civil legal liability for the perpetrator. Legal options for fighting cyber exploitation may include: a civil suit for damages or to enjoin (stop) someone from doing something, filing for a protective order to prevent contact from the perpetrator, or filing criminal charges against the perpetrator if their actions constitute a crime.
If you believe you or your child has been the victim of a crime you may want to consult with an attorney. Call the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI) at (301) 565-2277 to be connected with an attorney who can explain your legal options.
If you would like to arrange a training on online safety for your group or organization, please fill out our training request form here.