JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Exploring the internet and social media opens a world of possibilities for young people and teens.
But having easy access can increase your child’s chances of experiencing things like bullying and even threats online.
Nearly 60 percent of teens have experienced some form of cyberbullying according to a Pew research study. That’s why experts are urging parents to pay attention to how children are using computers and smart devices.
You don’t need to be a computer engineer to keep tabs on your child’s surfing habits.
Erin Bailey Lake is a Cyber Security Expert who works to keep parents informed. As kids spend more of their time on their devices, Lake said parents need to know what to look for:
- Inappropriate texting
- Unsafe behaviors or unsafe adults
One of the big concerns she's seen are predators online. Lake said parents need to warn their kids that as part of the grooming process, these people appear friendly and innocent behind the screen. But the warning signs are there.
"Anyone who would ask you to do something illegal is an unsafe adult. No matter how nice they may seem to be,” Lake explained.
She adds that studies have shown most inappropriate text messages are sent between teens who are dating- referred to as sexting. Some minors may not understand that even if they choose to do this, it is still illegal.
"That's something I've had to hammer in the youth classes. They think, 'Well, if I choose to send it- it's my body. It shouldn't be illegal'. But if you're under 18, the laws are different,” Lake warned.
Cyberbullying is another hot button issue impacting students. Lake said in many cases, threats between peers have moved from the school halls to online.
One of the big things to look for if you suspect your child has been the victim of a predator or bully online is their reaction if you try to take the phone or computer away. If they seem extremely angry, that's a red flag.
"Most children will be trying to manage it. They will try to be texting that person, trying to be de-escalating that behavior,” Lake said.
Parents should also look at the battery life on their child's device. It’s under settings on most smartphones. It will show you what apps have been used the most.
Lake said there have been cases where certain apps used for sharing pictures have been disguised as something less obvious, like a calculator app.