It’s a scene the COBRA team sees far too often; recently, child protection detectives charged a Sunshine Coast man on a startling list of grooming offences. The man, Tristen Michael Black, aged 40, was charged with 36 offences relating mostly to his alleged dealings with a 14-year-old girl. They included using the internet to procure a child under 16, supplying drugs to a minor, drug possession and child grooming.
Sadly, child predators are increasingly using social media apps to target children. It highlights the importance of cyber safety and why we should be careful with our online social life, and that of our children. In light of this, we strongly encourage you to consider your online security measures and privacy settings. For more information on securing your households online use and keeping your kids safe on the internet, please read our tips below.
KEEPING KIDS SAFE ONLINE
Online safety is one of the biggest issues we face in protecting our children. More than 1 in 4 Australians aged from 11 years old – 16 years old say they are in communication with people they first met online, unconnected with their offline social networks. This means that children and young people are developing friendships and relationships with people they have never met face to face.
Australian police have seen an increase in reports of “self-produced child exploitation material”. In some instances, children are willingly sharing photos of themselves, including inappropriate or naked pictures on social media.
In other cases, sex offenders are reaching out to children through social media platforms and coercing them into sharing inappropriate or naked pictures of themselves, which is secretly captured and shared in the darkest corners of the internet. With this in mind, it is just as important to talk about online personal safety with your children as it is personal safety in the offline world.
QUICK TIPS FOR PARENTS
Educate yourself: Check out different sites, games, and apps for yourself. The more familiar you are with them, the easier it is for you to talk to your children. Check privacy settings and recommended age restrictions.
Talk with your children: have conversations with them about the importance of safety online and show them how to implement this. You can do this without frightening them. For example, let them know that you have been hearing about online safety and ask what they think the risks are and what they do to keep safe.
Teach your children to think about online behaviour: How much should they be sharing online and what happens to information once posted or shared? Talk about respectful interactions and responsible behaviour, and encourage them to critically think about what they read and see online (remind them that not everything they read may be true, what they share will always be there, and that not everyone is who they say they are online).
Come up with a plan around safety: Talk about ways to not only stay safe but also how to respond to anything that happens that may concern them. Let them know they can talk to you or another adult they can trust. Encourage them to be proactive about keeping their online space safe and teach them how to report online creeps.
Supervise your child: There is no substitute for parental supervision, so keep an active eye on what your child does online.
Discuss the digital footprint: Many people, including children, believe that Internet browsing is anonymous. Educate your child on the permanence of their ‘digital reputation’. Whenever they visit a website, share content, post something on a blog or upload information, they are adding to their ‘digital footprint’. This can be gathered under their real name and accessed by interested parties such as future employers or marketing departments. This may occur without you or your child’s consent or knowledge.
Monitor online relationships: Your child should only make online contact with people they already know. Strangers who want to be your child’s online ‘friend’ may in fact be mature-age sex offenders. Monitor your child’s online relationships.
Personal data security: Ask that your child check with you first before filling in online forms. Emphasise the importance of never sharing personal information online.
Limit website access: Install safety software on your computer so that you can restrict your child’s online activities to approved websites.
GENERAL INTERNET SECURITY TIPS
Here are some general security and safety tips for all to follow online, including adults and children:
Always use strong passwords: A good password needs to contain numbers, capital letters and unique signs.
Only visit secure websites: A URL beginning with "https" is safer than one with "http" (the letter 's' stands for security).
Be careful using credit cards: Don't use credit cards that are linked to your bank directly. keep only one to use online.
Keep your home network safe: Ensure the security of your network. Make sure you change the name and password after getting a router from your provider.
Keep your personal data personal: Finding out dates of birth, email addresses and details about your family makes it easier for hackers and predators.
Always use legitimate software: Download apps and programs through official websites only, otherwise you risk downloading a malicious program.
Two-step verification: Google offers this option to all users. Instead of simply typing in your password, use verification requiring you to put in a code sent to your phone as well.
Don't forget to log out: Staying logged in is dangerous for the security of your personal information. Online services save all your data.
We hope these tips help you protect you, your family and your private information from the sort of predatory behaviour we would all like to avoid when it comes to our lives, our money and the people we love.