"Mom, can you drop me off at the mall after school today?" Your fifteen-year-old daughter queries. You reply, "Maybe, what are you going to do at the mall?" Your daughter says, "I'm going to meet a new friend I met on the internet. His name is Gonzo, he's 16 and he has a car. He said he would take me home later."
OK, so what do you do? Do you acquiesce and drop her off, or do you say, "Absolutely not! You don't go engaging strangers you find on the internet, not without a background investigation and never unescorted by me or your Dad." The answer, of course, is "Absolutely not!" Nevertheless, there are hordes of parents who would simply drop her off, possibly squarely into the malevolent hands of a 45-year-old child molester.
Actions you can take to prevent this conversation in the first place
Use this as a checklist for weeding out electronic malefactors:
- Use the Parental Controls on every computer. You can set age limits, block websites…
- Go to a background checking service and get complete arrest records. It only takes a few minutes and it is entirely affordable.
- Put all home computers in common, open spaces, making it unpropitious for kids to wander onto suspicious sites.
- To show kids the internet can be fun without surfing possible nefarious websites, have family gatherings around a computer and explore the web together, play games, watch videos, etc.
- Teach everybody to employ the most impermissible preferences if they fill out personal profiles. These sites include Every site that asks for your profile, especially social networks like Facebook, Google+ and web stores like iTunes, Game Stop, etc.
- Keep up with technology breakthroughs and trends that might tempt your kids to try novel ideas that might make it easier for predators to reach them. A few years ago, Facebook did not even exist and today a billion kids use it as a primary means of communication.
- Stay involved, keep up with trends, do the above and your family will be much safer using the internet.