3 steps parents can take to protect their kids online
The holiday shopping season is reaching its peak and many Jersey parents are getting new cell phones, laptops and tablets for their children.
Unfortunately, experts say most families will not establish proper ground rules for how those electronic devices will be used in order to keep kids safe from cyber-predators.
New Jersey child psychologist Dr. Steven Tobias recommends parents follow a 3-step process to minimize possible online problems.
He said an educational conversation needs to take place where children are told in age-appropriate language that “there are predators out there, there are strangers who are seeking to do them harm.”
According to New Jersey State Police Lt. John Pizzuro, the commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, developing a truthful relationship with your children is essential because “communication is the biggest key for prevention and awareness.”
State Police Detective Joe Santamaria, who works with the Task Force agrees.
“Know who their friends are, and that means sit along side them going down their friends list.”
After the chat, Tobias says parents need “to monitor the kids' online presence, to really always know what’s going on."
“I don’t believe that children have a right to privacy because they’re going to get themselves in trouble," he said. “I don’t care if a parent has spyware on the kid’s phone or computer, I don’t care if they go into the kid’s history.”
Step 3, said Tobias, is to come up with a written contract for your child.
“It stipulates the kid’s use of whatever technology is contingent upon following the rules of the contract, and that has to get laid out and agreed to ahead of time.”
He said this contract should make clear “what’s going to happen the first time you abuse it, what’s going to happen the second time and then the third."
Pizzuro said children must have ground rules and checks and balances.
“There’s nothing that we can say that would actually make a difference to the individuals out there [... who] have made it their mission to target children. The only thing we can do is educate the public, parents and their kids.”