Technology and Our Youth

By State Police Trooper Campbell

As parents, we do everything that we can do to ensure our children are safe.  We teach them about strangers, crossing the road safely, wearing protective equipment and gear to protect their bodies; we encourage them to make those good choices which coincidently turn out to be safe choices with positive consequences.  But, do we talk about online dangers, the use of Facebook, texting, sending photographs and postings?

Technology over the past 10 years has made great strides and has made a unique challenge for us as parents to keep our children safe from online predators, those seeking information about our children, as well as about us as parents.  With a simple click of the mouse or touch of a keypad, our children can go from an education site, a game, into the world of intrigue, potential danger and inappropriate sites.  As parents, we need to be parents and monitor closely where our youth are visiting online and to monitor what is being viewed, thus telling our youth we are engaged and interested in what they are doing.  Here are some tips that may help you as a parent deal with the issues involving technology;

  • Communicate, and talk to your child about victimization and potential online danger.
  • Spend time with your children online.  Have them teach you about their favorite online destinations. 
  • Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom.  Have the computers where the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member or the household.
  • Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software.  While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders.  Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored.  While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them. 
  • Always maintain access to your child's online account and randomly check his/her e-mail.  Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail.  Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why. 
  • Teach your child the responsible use of the resources online.  There is much more to the online experience than chat rooms.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends.  These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an online predator.
  • Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim.  the offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Instruct your children:
    • to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met online;
    • to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or online service to people they do not personally know.
    • to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
    • to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images
    • to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
    • that whatever they are told online may or may not be true.

(Editorial Note:  Trooper Campbell has spoken to ALL of our students grades 5-12 about responsibility when it comes to technology.  We appreciate the time he spends to advocate for our students' safety.)

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