Screen Your Child’s Internet Access!
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As the new school year begins, it is easy to get caught up with the day-to-day life of going to work, coming home to finish chores, running errands, helping the kids with their homework or taking them back and forth to their extracurricular activities. As parents we can often overlook the smaller details of day-to-day activities in our children’s lives. We might even be overly trusting of our children’s decisions on such devices such as their phones and internet searches. As parents, we may not want to intrude in their privacy because we want our children to like us or think we are the ‘cool’ parent. Another fallacy a parent may assume is that only girls are the victims of child predator efforts. It is critical to never assume anything short of that fact that as parents we need to be vigilant to protect our children’s well being. Their safety trumps their privacy, personal choices or decisions. Simply put, children are too young to understand the risks with certain activities or decisions. That is where our adult experiences, wisdom and cautions are of the upmost importance.
Navigating criminal activities on the internet is still fairly new. More importantly, navigating the world of protecting our children from online sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child trafficking all relatively new. Crimes like online predation often go unprosecuted in largely populated areas (i.e., Chicago) where other violent crimes take precedence and the resources are lacking or scarce. While not all states have a criminal code to prosecute child predators for grooming of a minor child online, fortunately, in Illinois, Grooming” as it is known is a Class 4 felony. The statutes reads as such:
720 ILCS 5/11-25 Criminal Code of 2012
(a) A person commits grooming when he or she knowingly uses a computer on-line service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission, performs an act in person or by conduct through a third party, or uses written communication to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child, a child's guardian, or another person believed by the person to be a child or a child's guardian, to commit any sex offense as defined in Section 2 of the Sex Offender Registration Act, to distribute photographs depicting the sex organs of the child, or to otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child. As used in this Section, "child" means a person under 17 years of age.
(b) Sentence. Grooming is a Class 4 felony.
(Source: P.A. 102-676, eff. 6-1-22.)
Make sure you are up-to-date on the newest or most popular apps that your children are viewing or frequenting. It is also important to learn about how parental controls work and how to apply them onto your child’s devices (i.e., phone, tablet, laptop etc..). No child is immune to child predators and ANY child can fall victim. Parents should always be aware of the dangers of the internet and be educated on which apps child predators are likely to use to contact their children. As a parent, it is vitally important to note that apps can also be accessed through search engines such as Safari or Google. Please remember that even if you have blocked or deleted an app off of your child’s device, it does not mean they cannot find a way to have access and log back into their account. If you have already caught your child talking to strangers on the internet you may want to report any information to the proper authorities and then have your child delete their entire profile and/or account prior to deleting the app. If you purchase a telephone for your children, you may want to consider getting one that does not allow for internet access. Also, remember to sit down and talk calmly and sincerely with your children about the dangers of the internet. Child predators can pin-point locations, addresses, access personal information of your child’s whereabouts, school, cameras etc. Protecting their privacy and safety should always be the top priority.
Here is a list of common app’s to regularly monitor, apply parental controls on, and/or remove entirely on your child’s devices:
KIK: Kik is an app designed for messaging friends and while the platform does not market or encourage romantic chats through their original platform, they do offer it through their two internal apps: Flirt! And Match & Chat.
ADDCHAT: Addchat is an app which lets you chat and share images with random strangers and has the option to sort profiles through genders and countries.
Omegle: Omegle is an app that can also be accessed through the web as well as the app. A person can talk and video chat with strangers from any part of the country or the globe.
SNAPCHAT (Snap): Snapchat is known for its 'disappearing messages’ feature as well as the ability to add strangers ‘in the area’. Children and teenagers do not always fully understand that nothing you put out on the internet actually disappears. This is especially true when anyone can screenshot or screen recording of anything posted.
Instagram (IG): Instagram is another platform where anyone can connect with anyone in the world and also has the ‘disappearing messages’ features.
Discord: Discord is an app for gaming (i.e., Call of Duty), which also has chat rooms, direct messaging and video calls. Users can join different “servers'' and within each server are different “channels.” Think of these like chat rooms that can be public or private.
YIK YAK: Yik Yak is an anonymous chatting app that lets users within a five-mile radius read publicly posted messages. This app has no user names, no handles, no real names, and no photos, which makes the sinister motives of online predators even easier for being more accessible to children.
Twitter: Yes, even Twitter. While Twitter is used for a new and entertainment source, it is also a go-to source for pornography and human trafficking as well as terrorist and/or extremist recruitment.
Hoop: Hoop has features from both Tinder (a dating app) as well as Snapchat. Hoop allows for children as young as 12 years old to interact with strangers on the internet. Roblox: Roblox is a video game platform that reaches world-wide and is extremely popular for children 5 to 12 years old. It essentially is a platform which hosts millions of games that users have created and posted. Just like the rest of the apps listed, Roblox has also been known to have child predators lurking in chat rooms.
Children are innocent and naive and do not necessarily think of adults on the internet as being sinister, which is why they are targeted. Our children and our teenagers need to be able to rely on us as parents; to help protect them, to be able to recognize what is in their best interest, as well as be able to identify the dangers of the internet before they fall victim to it.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Protect your loves ones from potential pitfalls and dangers by erring on the side of caution, talking to your children about dangers and blocking any potential sites that can be harmful or expose your kids to something dangerous.