In 2019, the CyberTipline received over 16.9 million reports of online exploitation of children.
It’s hard to comprehend these figures. Yet with new games, apps, and websites readily available in a single click, many youth face dangers downloading, uploading, sharing, and connecting on the Internet. These apps and games may appear harmless on the surface, but do you know the hidden dangers?
June is National Internet Safety Month, and with youth being online more, now is the time to become equipped with the knowledge and tools you need to protect the youth in your life.
Gaming. Online gaming has become a social norm for youth. However, this virtual playground does not come without dangers. Certain headsets have voice-masking capabilities, allowing predators to hide their identities. Predators may use online gaming to bond and connect with youth by viewing their gaming history or playing as a teammate to build trust.
Social Media Apps. Many of the apps youth use today appear fun and harmless, with adults using them as well, but parents must know about these apps so they can keep their youth safe. When an app like TikTok is downloaded, do you know what privacy settings are the default? Many apps, once downloaded, are public, meaning anything you post or share is available to anyone. Predators look for these public profiles to connect with youth.
Another consideration is where the app was created/where it originated. If the app is not a U.S. app, it is not subject to U.S. privacy laws. This means that your personal information in the app and possibly your phone can be vulnerable. The personal information youth are posting can allow predators to target them, befriend them, and then use their own content against them.
Photos. When you take a picture and share it, do you know where your photo goes? Every photo creates a digital footprint, with geotagging, device serial number, and more personal information becoming accessible. Once a photo is shared or published, all control is lost. The sender no longer has control of where or how that photo is used, who it is shared with, or if it can be altered or manipulated. Parents and youth must be wise about how they share photos in order to protect themselves and their families.
Ultimately, a lack of privacy or security settings can lead to online exploitation, sextortion, or cyberbullying. However, with appropriate conversations, education, and resources, you can reduce these risks.
- Know what apps are available, what they do, what to be aware of, and how you can set privacy settings, and more, to keep youth safe.
- Educate the youth in your life about the dangers that exist.
- Review resources available to parents and educators so that you can be equipped to keep the youth in your life safe from harm.
The Internet is a tool that can be used for good and bad. Be encouraged that there are ways you can stay safe while navigating the Internet — you are not powerless but can be equipped to be a protector.
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