Cyber Month: Protect your military children online

Written by Mr. Densmore Bartly, assistant information system security officer at USCG Base National Capital Region (NCR)

* This blog discusses themes meant for mature audiences.

Families eagerly await the return of the Coast Guard Barque Eagle at the Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Md., Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. The Eagle departed the Yard in April for port calls in Europe, Bermuda, and the eastern United States, as it carried out its mission to train future Coast Guard officers. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando

Families eagerly await the return of the Coast Guard Barque Eagle at the Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Md., Friday, Aug. 19, 2016. The Eagle departed the Yard in April for port calls in Europe, Bermuda, and the eastern United States, as it carried out its mission to train future Coast Guard officers. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lisa Ferdinando.

The Internet and Social media have become a part of most children’s everyday lives.

  • In the U.S., 95% of schools are now connected to the Internet
  • A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 22% of teenagers log onto their favorite social media sites more than 10 times a day, and that 75% own cell phones

 

Although the Internet provides an opportunity for military children to learn, explore their world, socialize and remain in contact with friends after moves; it can also serve as a gateway to trouble. By understanding the potential threats children face, you can educate, empower and protect yourself – and them – to have safer, more meaningful online experiences.

Did you know?

  • An estimated 20% of parents do not supervise their children’s online use at all
  • Close to 62% of teens say their parents know little or nothing about the websites they visit
  • Some 71% of parents stop supervising Internet use by their children after the age of 14, yet 72% of all Internet-related missing children cases involve children who are 15 years of age or older
  • Over 75% of Internet crimes involving sexual solicitations of children and exposure to unwanted pornography is not reported to police or parents

 

What can parents do to protect their children?

1. Set the conditions…

  • Place your computer in a common area of the house. The mere presence of a parent can have a huge effect on a child’s online activities.
  • Utilize the parental controls and commercial blocking and filtering software tools provided by your Internet Service Provider. Monitors can show a history of where your child has been on line, and filters block access to objectionable material.

 

2. Get up to Speed…

  • Educate yourself about computers, the Internet and Social Media. You need to know how to use these tools and applications in order to know what your children are doing on it.
  • Educate yourself on security software and parental controls for both computers and mobile devices. Utilize the parental tools available to set Internet standards.
  • Spend time with your children online. Ask your children how they use the Internet and have them teach you about their favorite destinations. Make “surfing the net” a family experience.

 

3. Have the talk…

  • Educate your child about the dangers of the Internet. Teach your children about sexual victimization and other dangers of the Internet. Talk openly and honestly about what they on the Net and your concerns.
  • Develop a “contract” with your children about their Internet use. A pledge to follow certain rules on the Internet may develop trust.
  • Reinforce the guiding rule, “Don’t communicate with strangers”. Tell your children what they are told online may, or may not be true.
  • Emphasize the importance of protecting personal information. Children should never give out their name, home address, telephone number or school name. Additionally, they should never put out information about a deployed parent or their unit.

 

4. Enforce the rules…

  • Make reasonable rules and set time and use limits. Try to understand their needs, interests and curiosity while setting limits for when and how long they may use the Internet. Limits can also be set using parental controls provided by most mobile carriers.
  • Know your child’s account names and passwords and let them know you will check their online activity.
  • Review the pictures that your child downloads or uploads. Predators will often send photographs or visuals to children as part of the grooming process. Some of the photographs may be pornographic or involve child pornography.

 

5. Be vigilant…

  • Be aware of other computers and screen names your children could be using. Your children probably use computers at school, libraries, or friends’ houses. Watch for your child using an online account belonging to someone else in order to bypass filters or monitors that you have set.
  • Be sensitive to changes in your children’s behaviors that may indicate they are being victimized. If victimized online, children may become withdrawn from their families or secretive about their activities. Computer sex offenders work very hard at driving a wedge between children and their parents.
  • Review the use histories or logs of your computer to see where your children have been. By viewing your Internet browser cookies, Temp History, Internet History or Cache files, you can see what your children have been doing online.

 

Here is a list of resources to help you in protecting and educating your children:

 

* This list is not comprehensive and does not constitute a Coast Guard promotion or endorsement of any website or product.

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