Human Beings have been fabricating information since the beginning of time, the inception of the internet has just made this more prevalent and much easier to get away with.
It is not new to us that people can now conveniently form fake profiles filled with false information and use that to cause another person harm. Hence, we must diligently guard our online lives and those of our teens.
Whether you’re a parent or an educator, addressing the following will help you protect your teens.
1. Online Profiles
Have your teens re-evaluate their online profiles and remove sensitive or personal information. Information such as ‘the street where you live’, ‘Where they work or go to school’, or ‘the day a parent leaves for a journey, and the return date’ is too dangerous a knowledge to forget on their profiles. That just shows online predators when they’ll be the most vulnerable.
Help them craft a profile that doesn’t expose too much. Strife for a profile that reveals only general information about your kids. Try to leave out age or birth year. It is not necessary for young teens to use pictures of themselves as their profile photos, we recommend that they post something impersonal such as a pet.
Search their profiles on google and see what comes up. Be sure to check the images that pop up too. If what you find are suggestive and revealing online images, their profiles need some work to keep them safe.
Also, teach them to increase their privacy settings.
2. Sensitive Posts (Images and Video)
It goes without saying that posting nude or semi-nude images of themselves will attract paedophiles to them. Doing so will make your teens be seen as loose and available.
They should avoid posting pictures like those from a sleepover, by the poolside, the beach or from vacation. If they post these pics, it is vital that they up their privacy settings.
As a parent also, avoid posting these types of images of them.
3. Dating and Meeting Offline
Don’t allow your teen to meet people he or she met online alone. If your teen already has an online relationship and is reluctant to give it up, speak with the online friend’s parents and arrange a time to meet all together.
Encourage your teens to only date people they know from school, work, church, etc. If they must meet with someone they met online, they must go with a trusted adult/parent.
They should never meet an online friend at your house! It is always advisable that you all meet in a public place such as the mall. Teens need to be extra careful of people trying to isolate them.
It is essential that they know not to trust anyone, especially if the person is not familiar through face to face encounters. Even if they are on FaceTime or Skype, what guarantees that the person is who they say they are?
Teach your teens to search the internet for more information whenever they meet people online. This will help them to know if they are being lied to online. Encourage them to find out how many of their “friends” have actually met the person face to face.
4. Personal Information
Teach your teen never to give out personal information during online conversations. Info such as their full name, address, where they work or go to school, social security number, credit card details, etc., should NEVER be given to people over the internet. It can very comfortably be used against you.
5. Who To Trust Online
Teach your teen that If the person they’re interacting with has many of the same interests they do, it is often not a coincidence. Catfishers and online predators create profiles that mirror those of the target victim to make the teen like them and start a conversation.
Remember, there is no perfect person. If someone looks too good to be true, then they probably are.
Checking pictures on their online friend’s profile will go a long way to ensuring they are not fooled. Ordinary people have a variety of images with friends and family. There are often a lot of comments and tags. If their “friend”‘s pictures look more professional and have very few likes, tags or comments, then its most likely a stolen photo used to deceive them.
6. Report to the Authorities
Finally, discuss with your teen if they have been hurt by someone using a fake profile. It is both your responsibility to report it to site monitors and/or appropriate authorities for cybercrime in your country.
Protecting the innocence of children is a joint responsibility, every parent should play a role in it. Doing otherwise can lead to lifelong problems for the kids.