Protecting Kids from Internet Stranger Danger

Internet Stranger DangerFor decades, “stranger danger” has been a term parents of school-aged kids used to warn their children. Before the rise of the internet, stranger danger referred to the dangers associated with strangers physically preying on innocent victims enticing with candy, knocking on the door or approaching a wandering child at a grocery store. While stranger danger is still a reality, it has a new dimension: threats from dangerous strangers can present themselves both in the flesh and online. Indeed, internet stranger danger is a real and growing problem.

When you send your child out into the world, you try to keep him or her safe from predators. The same is true online: just as a child can fall prey to a real-life predator, he or she can be victimized by an online stranger looking to prey on unsuspecting youths.

Although the threat of online social stranger danger is real and worrisome to any parent, there are many things you can do to protect your children. Here are 10 tips for ensuring that when your child uses the internet, he or she is able to enjoy the benefits of social media and the web without being victimized.

Tips to Prevent Internet Stranger Danger

1.   Don’t give out personal information. No one – especially a minor – should give out his or her name, age, address, school name, phone number or photos of him or herself online, in chat rooms, by email, by instant message or clubs online.

2.   Don’t talk to strangers. This age-old advice is especially important online. Tell your children they should avoid befriending strangers online in almost all circumstances. If they don’t know the person they should “unfriend” them on Facebook, don’t let them follow or be a follower on Instagram.

3.   Never meet with an online “friend” in person. Children should be reminded to never meet in real life with someone they meet on the internet without a parent accompanying them. Dangerous strangers can easily pretend online to be someone they are not.

4.   Don’t respond to strange requests. If your child receives an instant message from a stranger that seems inappropriate in some way, tell him or her to log off and notify an adult immediately. Especially when the request has to do with location, photos or sensitive information.

5.   Do not accept online messages from strangers. Don’t let your child open or accept emails, links, attachments, URLs or anything else from someone he or she doesn’t know and trust in real life.

6.   Never share your password. Remind your children – and remind them again and again – that they should never, under any circumstances, share a password with anyone other than their parents. Even close friends should not know a child’s passwords.

7.   Set boundaries. Create house rules for internet safety at home and make sure your children respect and follow them. Encourage them to follow the same rules at school, at the library and at friends’ and relatives’ homes.

8.   Monitor your children’s online and social media behavior. One way you can do this is by installing a family safety app like MamaBear on your child’s Apple or Android device to monitor your child’s behavior on social networks, including when he or she adds  “friends,” and when he or she is tagged in posts, photos or at locations. A family safety app will also make you aware of when inappropriate language or indication of bullying is posted to your child’s profile.

9.   Keep tabs on the websites your child visits. Look at the browsing history in whichever browser your child uses on a regular basis. Keep yourself informed of his or her online behavior. Also set up google alerts for your child’s name. Search your child’s name frequently.

10.  Communicate. Have conversations about your child’s online life and share yours. Who does she talk to? What does he like to do? Has she watched any funny or interesting videos lately? Open and honest communication is one of the best defenses against online predators. Let your child know that he or she can talk to you honestly about anything that happens in his or her online life, and that if a stranger approaches your child with sexual advances, you as a parent need to know.

Stranger danger – whether in real life or online – is something all parents worry about. By taking some precautions, staying aware and communicating with your children, you’ll be able to put your mind at ease and allow your kids the freedom they need to grow, explore, learn and have fun.

Help protect kids from internet stranger danger with the MamaBear app, available on Android devices here and iPhone devices here.

Is the Introduction of Video from the Instagram App Dangerous for Children?

The first Instagram video to receive 1 million likes was from Justin Bieber.

Instagram went online in 2010 and rapidly exploded into the 130 million user social media juggernaut that it is today. The popular photo app works on both Android and iOS platforms. The allure of easy photo sharing, liking photos, tagging and the unique filters and editing options make the app an endless source of social entertainment.  The thought of our kids sharing/viewing photos and now videos with and from 130 million people could be source of anxiety for many parents. Other social video apps like Vine already have a following, and the switch can be a hassle  for established users. This leaves a large community of young users that may not migrate, until of course their friends aren’t there anymore.

Instagram video allows for uploads of a 15 second video and joins the same stream as photos.

This addition to the stream doesn’t introduce new risk, maybe just some surprise when anticipating a photo to instead see a video.  However, the explore tab of Instagram has been and continues to be unsettling.  Search anything you’d like and be presented with that category of photos and now videos.   Preying adults and curious kids can easily cross paths by exploring Instagram.

As recommended prior to the introduction of video, be sure your child’s account is set to private.

Talk to your kids about talking to strangers. Stranger danger rules apply online the same as in person. They should not follow anyone they don’t know. And if your kids are going to post videos, talk to them about what’s appropriate.  Keep in mind revealing location, school name and other personal information can be a lot easier in a video than in a photo so they need to be extra careful to avoid potentially very dangerous situations.

MamaBear Instagram notifications can inform parents when a child is tagged in a photo or video, as well as when they add a follower or are contacted by a restricted follower. In addition parents can build a restricted word list to be notified when those words are used on their child’s Instagram feed. We’ll do our part to continue to monitor Instagram video to ensure parents are up to date with new features. Parents, we rely on you to teach your kids proper use of social media.

Download the MamaBear app today to ensure your children are using Instagram appropriately.