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Officials issue cyber warning for students on holiday break

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State officials are urging parents to be proactive about cyber safety during the winter break.

According to recent reports, nearly nine out of every 10 teens in Florida have access to a smartphone or tablet with access to the Internet.

“With days off of school, many students will spend free time online. Predators know this, and that is why I am asking parents to talk to their children about cyber safety this holiday season,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said. “Many children will receive smartphones, gaming consoles and other devices with Internet access as presents over the holidays, and with more ways to communicate online comes an increased risk of being targeted by a predator.”

Online games can also pose a threat. Predators will use online games with message boards or Internet conference call technology to pose as teens and groom gamers for face-to-face meetings.  

Many teens have social media profiles or use apps to share messages and pictures. This can increase the risk of being targeted by a predator.

Tips for parents:

  • Know every social media account and password, and check them regularly
  • Review the messages and pictures being shared by children
  • Remember predators will pose as teenagers online to build relationships with children and set up face-to-face meetings
  • Make sure GPS coordinates of pictures and other location information is not being shared
  • Set parameters for online activities, including time and location for internet use
  • Utilize filter features built into popular Internet browsers and software programs that block areas known to be inappropriate for children
  • Know the lingo used by teenagers in chat rooms, emails correspondence and text messages
  • Talk to children regularly. Let them know it is unacceptable to meet a stranger who messages them online.

A child’s privacy is not worth their safety, and if a child is sharing information with strangers online, parents need to know and take swift action, officials said.

Bondi will be reaching out directly to parents with cyber safety tips via Twitter from now until Christmas. To follow the social media campaign, go to twitter.com/agpambondi.

For more information and tips about cyber safety, please visit SafeFlorida.net.