Internet Safety Tips for Parents, from Internet Crimes Agent

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I recently attended a presentation by a former Internet crimes agent who now works in Information Security for a school district, where he sees how students use technology, the mistakes they make, and the consequences they face.

I’d like to share with you the Internet safety tips from the presentation.

Below are my notes from the presentation.

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Internet Safety Tips, from a Former Internet Crimes Agent

Rick Floyd works in Information Security for the Greenville County School District in South Carolina. He has over 20 years of law enforcement experience. He investigated Internet and computer crimes for the Greenville City Police Department. He was extensively trained in computer forensic investigations by the US Federal Government. He was a member of the local US Customs (ICE) task force, where he investigated child pornography cases, and conducted computer forensic investigations.

He was also a member of the South Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, where he investigated Internet crimes against children by posing as a minor, and investigated online criminal solicitation and enticement cases involving minors. He was also responsible for community training on Internet safety. 

He now conducts Internet safety presentations for school students and staff, parents, and community organizations.

The Importance of Being a Parent

Throughout the talk, Floyd stressed the importance of being a parent, setting rules, and openly conversing with your kids about their conduct. He encourages parents to be parents, rather than trying to be your child’s best friend.

If you don’t have time for your kids, Internet predators will.

Rick Floyd

No parental control software is 100% effective, so it’s still important to talk to your kids about online behavior.

Internet Predators

  • Mostly men, age 26 and older (average age 45)
  • Build a false trust with victims
  • Rarely lie about being an adult
  • Usually don’t abduct

Floyd said that when he was in law enforcement, he never arrested an Internet predator who wasn’t married with kids.

Victims of Internet Predation

  • Ages 13-15
  • ~85% girls, ~25% boys
  • History of sexual or physical abuse
  • Engage in patterns of risky behavior

Online Chat

Predators target kids via chat in mobile apps and video games (especially boys).

Many apps have chat features; watch out for them.

When Floyd speaks to students, he asks how many have been contacted by strangers. Almost all say they have.

Signs of Grooming

  • Receiving gifts
  • Calling unknown numbers
  • Rejecting family and friends
  • Getting upset when not online

What You Can Do About Grooming

  • Talk to your child about relationships
  • Talk to your child about the danger of meeting people offline whom they first met online
  • Know your child’s online friends
  • Teach your child the warning signs of grooming

Report to CyberTipline

The CyberTipline is the centralized reporting system for the online exploitation of children in the US. You can report at cybertipline.org or 1-800-843-5678.

Report the following:

  • Anyone who sends your child photos or videos containing obscene content
  • Anyone who speaks to your child in a sexual manner
  • Anyone who asks your child to meet in person

Revealing Too Much (Oversharing)

Before posting, ask yourself, “Would I tell this to a stranger? Would I put this on a billboard?” Teach your kids to ask the same questions.

Identity thieves collect personal data about kids, posted by their parents. Check your child’s credit annually.

What’s OK To Share?

  • Pictures of family and friends (with permission)
  • Casual conversation in a game

What’s Not OK To Share?

  • Certain kinds of personal information
  • Inappropriate information

What You Can Do About Oversharing

  • Set rules about what your kids can share
  • Learn about reporting options
  • Help kids set privacy settings
  • Help kids create strong passwords
  • Talk to your kids about their friends lists

Inappropriate Information

  • Pranks
  • Offensive language
  • Threats of violence
  • Underage drinking or drug use
  • Hate speech

Anything you put on the Internet can be used against you.

Rick Floyd

What You Can Do About Sharing Inappropriate Information

  • Establish expectations for online behavior
  • Set consequences for inappropriate posts
  • Talk about appropriate usernames
  • Review comments and pictures
  • Talk about what their friends are posting

Sending Nudes (Sexting)

Once a nude photo or video is sent, the sender loses control.

Sending nudes can result in sexploitation. A predator gets one nude, then threatens to publicize it if the victim doesn’t send more.

By law, nude photos or videos of minors must be reported to law enforcement. Kids can get into legal trouble.

Consequences of Sending Nudes

  • Humiliation
  • Bullying
  • Blackmail
  • School discipline
  • Police involvement

If you find a nude photo or video on your kid’s phone, don’t share/send it, because that’s distributing child porn. Instead, note the details (sender, date, time, etc.), then delete it. Or, take your kid’s phone to law enforcement to show it to them.

Cyberbullying

Tell kids adults are there for them, even if that’s not you. They can go to a teacher, coach, etc.

Signs of Cyberbullying

  • Stops using the computer or phone when you approach
  • Acts nervous when receiving a message
  • Seems uneasy about going to school
  • Withdraws from family and friends

What You Can Do About Cyberbullying

  • Save the evidence (keep or take screenshots of posts, messages, etc.)
  • Block cyberbullies
  • Help the child set up new accounts
  • Talk to the school
  • Report to law enforcement

Encourage your child to stand up for victims, and help them report cyberbullying.

Internet Safety Technology

  • Install filtering and monitoring software
  • Ask your mobile service provider if they offer parental controls
  • Consider software for mobile devices besides phones (tablets, gaming systems, etc.)
  • See what parental controls are included in apps
  • Consider parental-control software built into operating systems (Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, etc.)
  • Configure parental controls and/or filtering in your router
  • Mirror your kid’s phone to your phone or computer, to monitor
  • Prevent your kids from installing apps without your password
  • Disable location-sharing in your kids’ apps; predators use location to find kids

No parental control software is 100% effective, so it’s still important to talk to your kids about online behavior.

Floyd said he doesn’t recommend any particular parental controls software; he leaves that up to parents. He said he’s heard good things about Bark.

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He recommends that you take your kids’ devices away at night. Monitoring in his school district shows many kids online throughout the night, including many middle-schoolers who are online at 3 AM.

Watch for secondary devices your kids may use, such as prepaid phones, to avoid being monitored.

Human Trafficking

The other speaker at the event was Georgia Boozer, a volunteer with SWITCH, a nonprofit fighting human trafficking and sexual exploitation in Upstate South Carolina. She shared a few details that are relevant to the topic of keeping kids safe online.

Top 5 Ways Traffickers Find Victims

  1. Social networks
  2. Home neighborhood
  3. Clubs or bars
  4. Internet
  5. School 
internet safety tips How human traffickers find victims

Signs of Human Trafficking Victimization

  • Signs of physical abuse (burn marks, bruises, cuts)
  • Unexplained absences from school
  • Less appropriately dressed than before; sexualized behavior
  • Has a second phone
  • Overly tired, falls asleep in class
  • Withdrawn, depressed, distracted
  • No longer interested in age-appropriate activities
  • Brags about making or having money
  • Displays expensive clothes, accessories, shoes
  • New tattoo
  • Older boyfriend, new friends with a different lifestyle, gang involvement
  • Disjointed family connections, running away, living with friends, experiencing homelessness

Additional Resources

What You Should Do

  1. Pay attention to the chat feature in apps and games, because that’s often how predators contact kids.
  2. If you suspect online exploitation of children, report it at cybertipline.org or 1-800-843-5678.
  3. Before posting, ask yourself, “Would I tell this to a stranger? Would I put this on a billboard?” Teach your kids to ask the same questions.
  4. Check your child’s credit annually.
  5. Set rules about what your kids can share online.
  6. Help your kids set privacy settings.
  7. Help your kids create strong passwords.
  8. Talk to your kids about who’s in their friends lists.
  9. Establish expectations for online behavior, related to offensive language, threats of violence, substance abuse, hate speech, etc.
  10. Talk to your kids about the consequences of sending nudes, including humiliation, bullying, blackmail, school discipline, and legal trouble.
  11. If you find a nude photo or video on your kid’s phone, don’t share/send it, because that’s distributing child porn. Instead, note the details (sender, date, time, etc.), then delete it. Or, take your kid’s phone to law enforcement to show it to them.
  12. Tell your kids that adults are there for them if they’re cyberbullied. The trusted adult could be you, a teacher, coach, etc.
  13. Consider using parental controls and Internet filtering software on all devices your kids use.
  14. Disable location-sharing in your kids’ apps, because predators use location to find kids.
  15. Consider taking your kids’ devices away at night.
  16. Watch for secondary devices your kids may use, such as prepaid phones, to avoid being monitored.
  17. Watch for signs of grooming, cyberbullying, and human trafficking, described earlier.

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