Thursday, February 22, 2007
Don't Be a Victim: Cyber-Stalking
It's Spring Break week and a lot of kids are on their own. It's also a good time for kids to practice being safe when mom and dad aren't around.
"The criminal element out there is using this as a way to reach your children."
And it's easy for your kids to fall prey to those cyber stalkers.
Officer Frank Jackson: "It is the stalking, but the stalking using those electronic devices. The stalking can lead to some sort of sexual advance or some sort of kidnapping or some sort of far more violent type of crime."
Don't be a Victim: Officer Frank Jackson of the Coral Gables Police Department says you have to protect yourself the minute you sign on.
First use safety features on your computer that block free access to the internet.
Second keep screen names simple -- don't spice them up.
Officer Frank Jackson: "Use a generic name. Try not to give away the fact that you are a female. When filling out profiles keep it very vague, very general. If you don't have to put that you are a female or male, try not to."
Also, tell your kids never to list their age.
Next, make sure your kids know people can pretend to be anyone on the computer.
Officer Frank Jackson: "People can pose as a 12- or 13-year-old online. Have a conversation with your child, and things escalate from there."
Another key safety measure: Keep the computer out of your kids' room. Put it where you can see it and, more importantly, what your kids are doing on it.
Officer Frank Jackson: "You should have a buddy list. In that buddy list it should be individuals you know that it is safe to talk to. As a parent, you should go over a buddy list with your child. Know who they are, what ages they are."
Text messaging is the preferred method of communication for kids.
Officer Frank Jackson: "If that phone has that option to receive or send a text message, your children are vulnerable."
Predators send messages randomly hoping to find a child. If they get a response, they will make their move.
Officer Frank Jackson: "If they receive a text message from a number or an individual they do not know, our advice is do not respond."
Officer Jackson says that's why parents have to talk to their kids about messaging.
Officer Frank Jackson: "Much like you would talk to them with the safety features and precautions they would take using the internet, same thing applies to a cell phone."
If you can monitor the numbers that are coming in to you child's phone.
And parents, one more note. Keep up with technology. Because, even if you don't, the predators will.