Keep your kids safe online

Young Americans spend almost every waking moment using computers and smartphones to interact online through social media, with the average teenager spending about 35 hours online each week.

This constant connection to the online world exposes teens to over 50,000 sexual predators at any given moment. In Mesa County alone, there are about 16 online sexual predator cases every month.

The Mesa County’s Sheriff Office coupled with the Mesa County Crime Stoppers on Tuesday to provide a free course promoting online safety for teens and their parents. The interactive class showed parents how the increasing number of online predators target young internet users, as well as steps the parents can take to keep their children safe while interacting on the web.
“It is important for parents and teens to know that the Internet is bigger and more dangerous than they think,” said Deputy Chad Williams, “We want to make sure that parents and teens in this county use safeguards while roaming the web.”

The hundreds of thousands of online sexual predators portray themselves as young teens with the goal of exchanging pictures or even meeting in person. Luckily, there are steps parents can take to ensure their teens remain safe from these predators.
“Parents need to have a plan and strategy when dealing with their kids, whether it involves laid back or more strict guidelines,” said Lissah Norcross, one of Mesa County’s five investigators assigned to online predation cases.

So, where should parents start?

Keeping the computer in a visible, frequently used part of the home can cast out mischievous sites, and utilizing parental controls can restrict those sites from being accessed. Most importantly, parents should sit down and talk with their children about the dangers of the Internet, blog sites and chat rooms. Children should understand why it is important to limit interaction with people they don’t know.

“Parents need to be firm and chat with their kids from a very young age. Have the talk early to better warn the kids,” said Norcross. “We as parents must have some form of restrictions and control of computer or smartphone.”

According to Parent Guide News, about 64 percent of children say they post personal information online. Advise children to never post any identifying information such as home address, school name, age or email address to any unfamiliar websites or chat rooms.

“The most important thing parents can do is foster open communication with their children. Create and agree upon certain rules,” said Williams. “Work together to ensure everyone stays safe.”


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